NGOs Urge EU to Call on Saudi Arabia to Release Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr

29 May 2015 – Washington, D.C. – 11 human rights and multi-faith organizations sent a letter to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, urging the European Union (EU) and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to call on the government of Saudi Arabia to cancel the death sentence of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr and release him immediately. On 15 October 2014, the renowned Shia cleric and human rights defender was convicted by the Specialized Criminal Court on vague charges relating to his peaceful religious and political expression. These charges included “disobeying the ruler, sowing discord, undermining national unity, and interfering in the affairs of a sisterly nation.” It has been reported that, in securing Sheikh al-Nimr’s conviction, the prosecution presented evidence obtained under duress or through coercive means. It has also been alleged that Sheikh al-Nimr, for his part, was prevented from mounting a proper defense. Throughout the trial, it was reported that the judge displayed bias toward the prosecution, and a general disregard for due process. Such misconduct notwithstanding, the court sentenced Sheikh al-Nimr to death. Now, it has come to our attention that his execution may be imminent.

In the letter, the signatories request that the EU and the EEAS intervene on behalf of Sheikh al-Nimr by issuing a public statement condemning his sentence and demanding his immediate release. The letter additionally requests that the EEAS contact the Government of Saudi Arabia and directly register its concerns regarding his detention. The signatories also emphasized that Sheikh al-Nimr is a peaceful activist who has never once called for violence. His sentence, therefore, is in grave violation of freedom of expression, freedom of religious and political association, and freedom of assembly.