When Ali al-Nimr was 17, he was charged with relatively minor charges related to his participation in the widespread 2011 to 2012 Arab Spring demonstrations against Shia repression in the eastern part of the country, where most of the population resides.
But when his uncle, the reformist Shia cleric and protest leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was arrested, prosecutors ramped up their case. Instead of minor infractions related to the protests, al-Nimr now stood accused of joining a terrorist organization, throwing Molotov cocktails and arson.
After being moved to an adult prison at the age of 18, he confessed to a string of crimes under extreme torture, according to his lawyer, Taha al-Hajji. At trial, al-Nimr withdrew his confession, but this was ignored by the presiding judge, according to al-Hajji.
Then, in May 2014, al-Nimr was sentenced to death by "crucifixion," contrary to Article 37 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that no individual should be sentenced to death for crimes committed under the age of 18. Saudi Arabia is one of the 196 countries that has ratified the CRC.
Al-Nimr, now 24, is not alone. In fact, he is one of three Saudi Arabian men known to be on death row who were arrested and charged with crimes allegedly committed when they were minors.