Bubai: Amid an international outcry over Saudi Arabia's crackdown on dissent, the kingdom has released Ali al-Nimr, a young Shia man who spent a decade in prison for attending anti-government protests and received a death penalty that was later rescinded.
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was released on Wednesday, following Saudi Arabia's decision to commute death sentences for individuals who committed alleged crimes while minors.
Nimr's uncle, Jaafar al-Nimr, posted a picture of his nephew on Twitter shortly after leaving prison.
"Ali al-Nimr to freedom...praise be to God for your safety," he tweeted.
Nimr's sister also tweeted, "After ten years, my brother is free, thank God."
Nimr was sentenced to death for his role in demonstrations against longstanding government discrimination that swept the country's Eastern Province in 2011, when he was just 16.
The crimes included "going ... to marches," "repeating some chants against the state," and "breaking allegiance with the ruler."
Nimer is the nephew of the late prominent Shia cleric, Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was executed in January 2016. The killing of Sheikh Nimr caused a global uproar against Saudi Arabia's crackdown on minorities, especially the Shia Muslims that account for more than 20 percent of the Saudi population.
In April 2020, Saudi Arabia announced that it would stop imposing death sentences on people guilty of crimes committed when they were under the age of 18.
"But amid the relief and celebration, al-Nimr's ordeal highlights the cruelty of the Saudi justice system, which the country's rulers have failed to meaningfully reform," Human Rights Watch said while reacting to Nimr's release.
Riyadh has been under fire for having one of the world's highest execution rates. The kingdom also faces criticism for restricting the access of the country's Shia minority to public education, employment and the justice system.
"As Saudi leaders spare no expense to launder the country's bloody image, perhaps they decided the child death penalty was not worth the reputational cost", rights body said.
"But even if a child arrested today might not receive the death penalty, an unfair trial and unjust prison sentence remain a near certainty. The system that stole years of freedom from Ali al-Nimr remains hellbent on punishing Saudi dissidents without regard for fairness or due process", Human Rights Watch said.