France urged Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to cancel the death sentence given to a youth, Ali al Nimr, for taking part in anti-government protests, claiming that he was a minor when he was arrested.
Ali al Nimr was condemned to death in May after taking part in anti-government protests three years ago in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. He was convicted of protesting, rioting, sedition and robbery in Qatif. He was also accused of possessing illegal firearms, but repeatedly denied the latter charge.
“France is concerned by the situation of Ali Mohammed al Nimr, who was sentenced to death even though he was a minor at the time of the events,” Foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said.
“Opposed to the death penalty in all cases and circumstances, we call for the execution to be called off.”
Nadal made the statement a day after United Nations rights experts called on Riyadh to cancel Ali’s "imminent execution."
Saudi Arabia carries out death penalty sentences frequently. France does not usually intervene in the cases due to its strong ties with Riyadh and the shared stance of both countries towards Iran and the conflicts in the region.
According to activists Ali was 17 when he was arrested for chanting anti-government slogans in illegal protests and provoking others to demonstrate.
It has been alleged that Ali was targeted because of his uncle Sheikh Nimr al Nimr, who was also sentenced to death in 2014. Ali’s father is also reported to be a political activist.
Ali is a nephew of a prominent cleric who is also on trial. The conviction of Ali followed that of Rida al Rubh, 26, whose father was also a cleric who has been critical of the authorities.
The clerics are on trial for taking part in protests and violent unrest in Qatif, especially in the village of Awamiya, where police officers and facilities had been attacked.
“Ali was a vulnerable child when he was arrested and this ordeal began,” said Maya Foa of the legal charity Reprieve, in a statement.
“His execution, based apparently on the authorities’ dislike for his uncle, and his involvement in anti-government protests, would violate international law and the most basic standards of decency. It must be stopped.”
According to Amnesty International, Ali spent a short time in a juvenile detention center before being transferred to prison when he turned 18, and was sentenced to death in 2014.