Mohammed al-Nimr, the father of Ali al-Nimr, a Saudi youth facing execution for taking part in pro-reform protests, speaks to AFP in Riyadh, on September 23, 2015
Mohammed al-Nimr, the father of Ali al-Nimr, a Saudi youth facing execution for taking part in pro-reform protests, speaks to AFP in Riyadh, on September 23, 2015 © - AFP
Mohammed al-Nimr, the father of Ali al-Nimr, a Saudi youth facing execution for taking part in pro-reform protests, speaks to AFP in Riyadh, on September 23, 2015
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AFP
Last updated: September 24, 2015

Father of Saudi youth on death row asks king for clemency

The father of a Shiite youth facing execution for taking part in pro-reform protests appealed to Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Wednesday to spare his life.

The sentence against Ali al-Nimr, only 17 when he was arrested in February 2012, has drawn international condemnation over his young age at the time and allegations that he was tortured into making a confession.

It is the latest case to highlight use of the death penalty and human rights in the Islamic kingdom, which Amnesty International says is one of the world's most prolific executioners.

In an interview with AFP, Mohammed al-Nimr said he hoped the king would save his son.

"We hope that the king will not sign" the execution order, Nimr said, after Saudi Arabia's highest court confirmed the death sentence, leaving his son's fate in the monarch's hands.

Nimr warned that if his son is put to death the minority Shiite community could react violently, something he does not want to happen.

"We don't need that; we don't need even one drop of blood," he said.

The youth is a nephew of Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite religious leader who is also on death row.

Mohammed al-Nimr, a businessman from Dammam in eastern Saudi Arabia, was in Riyadh to visit his jailed brother for the Muslim feast of sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, which falls on Thursday.

Nimr al-Nimr was a driving force behind demonstrations that began four years ago in Eastern Province.

Most of Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia's Shiites live in the east, and have complained of marginalisation.

Ali al-Nimr's father admitted that his son, then a high school student, had joined thousands of other people in protest.

But he insisted that Ali was innocent on numerous other charges including burglary, attacking police and using a Molotov cocktail.

The court sentenced Ali al-Nimr to death but gave no further details.

Execution in the kingdom is usually carried out by the sword, sometimes in public.

- 'High morale' -

France's foreign ministry appealed on Wednesday for a stay of execution, voicing concern that the youth had been "condemned to death even though he was a minor at the time of the incident".

France opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, a foreign ministry spokesman added.

On Tuesday, UN rights experts also called for Ali al-Nimr's life to be spared.

They said in a statement that the youth was reportedly tortured, coerced into a confession and denied adequate access to a lawyer before and during a trial that did not meet international standards.

"Any judgement imposing the death penalty upon persons who were children at the time of the offence, and their execution, are incompatible with Saudi Arabia’s international obligations," the experts said.

Mohammed al-Nimr said his last monthly visit with his son in Dammam jail came three weeks ago, and he expects to see him again this week.

"I am sure that his morale is very high, and he is strong," the father said, adding that the family is buoyed by the outpouring of global support on social media.

But not everyone is calling for clemency.

Many online commentators said the death sentence should be carried out.

"Very soon we will rejoice with the execution of this terrorist," said one tweet.

Ali al-Nimr is one of six sons and daughters in his family.

Mohammed al-Nimr said his son and Nimr al-Nimr, are among eight Shiites who have exhausted all court appeals against death sentences imposed after the protests.

Ali al-Nimr is the youngest of those eight, he said.

Saudi Arabia has executed 133 locals and foreigners this year, according to an AFP tally, compared with 87 last year.

"Saudi Arabia has been on an execution spree in 2015, but beheading a child offender whose trial was unfair would be an appalling new low," Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director of Human Rights Watch, said last week.

Local activists are also worried about the threat to Ali al-Nimr's life. "It's a very painful story," said one Eastern Province activist, asking for anonymity.

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