Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a Shia cleric known in Saudi Arabia for being outspoken during a wave of anti-government protests in 2011, has been sentenced to death for “sedition,” with the government alleging that he incited listeners to overthrow the government.
BBC reports that he was also found guilty of disobedience and calling for “foreign meddling” within the nation. (Al-Nimr has previously called for eastern Shia provinces to secede from the Sunni kingdom.) The news surfaced through a tweet from his brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, who also described the decision as “discretionary”–up to the judge to determine whether al-Nimr deserved to live or not. Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court, which hears terrorism cases, heard al-Nimr’s case.
— m alnemer (@mbanalnemer) October 15, 2014
According to BBC, Mohammed has since been arrested for tweeting details of the case. Ali al-Nimr, Nimr’s nephew and Mohammed’s son, was sentenced to death earlier this year.
There is no official word on whether there will be an appeal or which method Saudi Arabia will use to execute al-Nimr, though the BBC mentions the possibility of “crucifixion,” which it describes as a procedure that “involves beheading followed by public display of the decapitated body.”
The Saudi Gazette notes that al-Nimr was also found guilty of closely associating with known terrorists, mentioning Hussein Al-Rabia as “the most dangerous terrorist” working with al-Nimr. It does not note what al-Nimr was allegedly planning with Al-Rabia, nor what the latter’s crimes have been. The newspaper notes that al-Nimr has been “on trial” since March 2013, after being shot by Saudi authorities.
According to Malaysia’s The Star, al-Nimr was detained in July 2012, after which Shia supporters engaged in protests for days, resulting in several deaths as the Saudi government worked to curb any large-scale potential Shia uprising.
A community leader in Qatif, an area of the country in which Shias are the majority, told the newspaper he believed the death sentence would “shock everyone here and it will reduce very much the credibility of the state among Shi’ites.” He added, “I think the government is giving a show of strength against anyone who thinks of opposition.”
The Gazette also reports that, in addition to al-Nimr, “the court sentenced 21 others, including 19 Saudis, a Chadian and a Bangladeshi national, to prison terms ranging from five to 28 years.”