There have been calls for the release of Saudi Arabian Shi’ah scholar, Ayatollah Shaykh Nimr Baqir an-Nimr, from around world. Both Muslims and non-Muslims have issued statements in support of the oppressed scholar.
On June 18th, a Saudi court sentenced the Friday prayer leader of al-Awamiyah village to death and accused him of giving speeches against the monarchy. He has been arrested several times since 2012 over his calls on the Saudi government to give the Shi’ah further freedom to exercise their religious rights, criticizing the country’s ruling system and calling for political reform. Ayatollah an-Nimr has “dared to peacefully criticize Saudi Arabia’s rulers [and thus] has paid a very high price for refusing to be silenced,” Sa’id Boumedouhah, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, explained.
There is popular sympathy with Ayatollah an-Nimr both inside and outside the Wahhabi kingdom, which has been made evident by statements of solidarity made in support of his cause at the level of the clergy. For example, Ayatollahs Ja’far Sobhani and Naser Makarem-Shirazi are among the sources of emulation have spoken up against the trial and execution of Ayatollah an-Nimr.
Amnesty International (AI) has criticized Saudi Arabia and called the Wahhabi monarchy to stop its unjust prosecution against the prominent Shi’ah cleric, saying its harsh sentence against Ayatollah an-Nimr shows the disturbing pattern of harassment of the Saudi regime against its Shi’ah population.
“The detention of Ayatollah al-Nimr for exercising his normal rights which are stipulated by all the international laws and the heavenly religions will harm our [Islamic] nation which badly needs cooperation and encounters serious threats,” a statement from the Lebanese Shi’ite resistance group, Hezbollah reads in response to the fabricated legal case against Ayatollah an-Nimr.
There have been numerous demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province since 2011, with the protesters calling for political reform and an end to widespread discrimination. Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.