Speculation About Saudi Plans

Is Ali al-Nimr About to Be Executed?

* * * *
There are two things about Ali Mohammed al-Nimr that we know today (December 6, 2016), and they are the same two sad, maddening things that we know about Ali al-Nimr every day: He remains in prison and he is awaiting his fate. Anything else, everything else, is speculation. Today, speculation about Ali al-Nimr is drowning out the few things we actually know.

Ali al-Nimr is the young Saudi protester who faces a sentence of death by beheading followed by a posthumous crucifixion (the public display of his dead body), and we know one other solidly reported thing about him today: he phoned home this morning.

The International Business Times published an article July 28, with this headline, “Saudi Arabia could be about to behead and crucify Ali Mohammed al-Nimr.” It cites human rights activists who fear that certain Twitter accounts are predicting Ali’s imminent execution. The major Twitter account that the article features is this one: @KSA24.

KSA24’s account is almost completely in Arabic. Last year it published the news in advance that the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Ali’s uncle, was due in the next day or so, and on January 2, this prediction was proved to be correct. The Sheikh was beheaded. Because the Twitter account was terrifyingly correct seven months ago, and because it appears to exist with something approaching a semi-official blessing from the ruling family (or else it would not exist at all), anything it carries as news is interpreted as important.

KSA24’s account last mentioned Ali Mohammed al-Nimr on July 11, however. For those who wish to do the research themselves, the words “Ali Al-Nimr” appear as علي النمر in Arabic. KSA24 did not start the discussion; people commenting on a post started to discuss Ali. There is one tweet, (with incorrect facts), and a few answers supporting Ali. (Here is the thread itself: KSA24 thread discussing Ali al-Nimr.)

(An email requesting comments and clarifications was sent to the email associated with the KSA24 Twitter account. No reply has been received.)

A moving editorial was also published today by the International Business Times: “The world needs to come together again or Ali Mohammed al-Nimr will die,” by Zena Al-Esia, a Research Associate with ESOHR, the European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights. She was the source for the IBT news article, she is the human rights activist who fears for Ali’s life. The article is used, in turn, as material support for the editorial.

She concludes, “For now, weekly phone calls and monthly family visits represent the only way to confirm Ali Mohammed al-Nimr remains alive. His family continues to live a daily nightmare, fearing the day they learn of their son’s execution via the TV.”

A Facebook account that is operated by members of the al-Nimr family and people who have permission to speak on their behalf posted its usual weekly Thursday statement this morning: ‪”#‎Ali_AlNimr‬ called home today; he is well and sends his greetings to you all. Once again, we urge you to write to your government representatives about the planned execution of Ali.” There was nothing about new fears of an imminent change in Ali’s status. Here it is:

Ali is in jail with several other young men who were arrested at protests during the Arab Spring movement. The faces and stories of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher have been featured on international television and a hashtag campaign: #FreeThe3 or #SaveThe3 supported hstrongly by Amnesty International and other eminent human rights organizations. I have published about a dozen articles since last summer.

I wrote in March, “One can hazard a guess as to the effect this publicity has on the families and loved ones of the three: on one hand, it may have been heartening to witness the world bearing witness with speed and ferocity, as the #SaveThe3 hashtag started trending on Twitter, but it also may have given needless vitality to the fears for the worst outcomes that the families already live with every day. The three were sentenced to death last year, and, for the families, each day opens and closes with the simple knowledge of this in their hearts.”

Today, a friend of mine posted a statement on Facebook about the IBT article, and Ali’s father himself wrote a touching reply to him: “Thank you so much for closely following the case of my son Ali Al-Nimr and your ongoing support. Thank you for sharing your perspective. However, the danger to Ali’s life exists and is very real, despite Saudi Arabia insistence that it does not execute minors. Until now, his death penalty sentence remains, and my son sits on death row, despite the fact that the trial was deeply flawed. His death sentence may be enacted at any time, as it has not been implemented yet, neither has it been retracted, or any form pardon has issued in his case.”

A source of mine who has sources in Saudi Arabia and who speaks with the al-Nimr family emphasizes: Ali would not have placed his weekly phone call if anything had been changed in his circumstances. He would have been moved to another prison. He probably would not know why he had been moved. His family, which has developed an international network of correspondents, will not shy away from sharing its fears if and when that day comes. The fears about Ali al-Nimr’s execution and crucifixion are real, but they are no more real today than they were yesterday or the day before, with or without the IBT article.

I no longer need to “hazard a guess” about what speculation about the fate of the three young prisoners does to the families. It rips their hearts. You can see it in the reply Ali’s father wrote above.

Zena Al-Esia’s editorial reminds readers of a few crucial points, however. She writes, “Saudi Arabia has always carried out its executions once global attention towards victims subsides. The worldwide attention that greeted his conviction last year needs to rally once again to stop the execution.” That remains as true today as yesterday or the day before, and it will remain true for however many tomorrows are in front of us until Ali Mohammed al-Nimr once again sees freedom.

* * * *
Raymond Johansen, Pirate Parties International Board Member and Anon who is taking part in the Raif Badawi and al-Nimr family causes, provided editorial support for this article. Rohan Dandavate, an independent investigative journalist, provided editorial support for this article as well.

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  1. whippetwisdom · July 28, 2016

    Thank you for reporting on this Marc, Ali and his family are in our prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. coldhandswarmheartsblog · August 24, 2016

    Thanks for visiting my post and I shall keep these political prisoners in my prayers.


  3. Pingback: Raif Badawi and the Nobel Peace Prize | The Gad About Town

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