US & Canada

Mother of condemned Saudi man appeals to Obama for help

A photo of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr from a Facebook group Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr was arrested in 2012, when he was 17

The mother of a Saudi man sentenced to death over his involvement in an anti-government protest has appealed to US President Barack Obama for help.

Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr was arrested in 2012, when he was 17, and convicted of sedition, rioting and robbery.

His mother Nusra al-Ahmed called his sentence of crucifixion - beheading followed by the public display of his body - "backwards in the extreme".

An Obama administration official said it was "deeply concerned" by the case.

Mrs Ahmed told the Guardian on Wednesday: "[Mr Obama] is the head of this world and he can, he can interfere and rescue my son... He would be rescuing us from a great tragedy."

Ali al-Nimr was sentenced to death by the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC), a special security and counter-terrorism court, in May 2014.

The sentence was upheld both by the appeal division of the SCC and by the Supreme Court earlier this year, without his or his lawyer's knowledge, according to Amnesty International.

He could be executed as soon as King Salman ratifies the sentence.

Human rights groups have called for clemency for Ali al-Nimr, but the country's embassy in the UK has said it "rejects any form of interference in its internal affairs".

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Activists have been highlighting the young Saudi's case online

Saudi state media reported that Ali al-Nimr was found guilty of sedition, breaking allegiance to the king, rioting, bearing arms, using petrol bombs against security patrols, robbing a pharmacy and stealing surveillance cameras. He was also convicted of chanting anti-government slogans at illegal protests and inciting others to demonstrate, they added.

His family strongly denies the charges and say the conviction was based on "confessions" Ali al-Nimr says were extracted under torture.

"We call on the government of Saudi Arabia to respect universal human rights and its international obligations as well as to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings that afford requisite fair trial procedures and safeguards in this and all cases," a senior Obama administration official said on Wednesday.

"We have raised this case with the Saudi government including very recently, and addressed it in our 2014 Human Rights Report."

Human rights activists say that in sentencing a juvenile offender to death, Saudi Arabia has violated its obligations under international customary law and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which it is a state party.

More on this story