Condemned Saudi protester's father urges David Cameron to intervene


The father of a Saudi man facing the death penalty has suggested that an intervention by David Cameron could save his son's life.

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, 21, has been sentenced to death by beheading and crucifixion in Saudi Arabia, after being arrested for allegedly taking part in anti-government protests in 2012, when he was just 17.

His father Mohammed al-Nimr said that his son is among eight young men who have been sentenced to death, but insisted that he was "completely innocent" of the charges against him.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister said Britain had raised concerns about the al-Nimr case with the Saudi authorities, adding that he would see whether he could find an opportunity to do so personally.

But the Saudi Embassy in Britain made clear the oil-rich state's irritation at international condemnation of the sentence, releasing a statement which said: "The judiciary is an independent body and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia rejects any form of interference in its internal affairs and any impingement on its sovereignty or the independence and impartiality of  its judiciary."

Mohammed al-Nimr told Channel 4 News: "I heard that Cameron has spoken about my son's case. I see this a positive step. Our two countries have a warm and friendly relationship, so I expect this will lead to a good outcome. I hope that Cameron's intervention will have a positive effect on the Saudi royal family."

He added: "I want to thank Mr Cameron and the international community. I know we are all good friends so I believe that all these calls for my son's release will be very welcome.

"Mr Cameron is a father too, so I know he understands what I am going through. I am so grateful to him and everyone else in the world who has campaigned on behalf of my son. I hope the matter can be resolved in a peaceful manner."

Mr al-Nimr said he had last seen his son two weeks ago, when he seemed "resigned to his fate".

He added: "I'm very worried now because they've moved my son to a prison in Riyadh and he is in solitary confinement. I expect that this can only mean bad news and I fear he could be executed at any moment.

"Dawoud al-Marhoon also faces the same fate as my son, but so do six others. So in total there are eight young men who have been sentenced to death.

"My son is completely innocent. He has denied all accusations against him and said so in court. My son is a peaceful man. They forced him to sign a confession for a crime he never committed."

In his first conference speech as Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn last week urged Mr Cameron to personally intervene in the case, and the Prime Minister subsequently said that his message to the Saudi authorities would be: "Don't do it."

In an interview at the Conservative conference in Manchester on Tuesday, Mr Cameron said: "We have raised this as a Government. The Foreign Secretary has raised this, our embassy has raised this, we raise this in the proper way.

"I will look to see if there is an opportunity for me to raise it as well. We oppose the death penalty anywhere and everywhere and we make that clear in all of our international contacts."

But he made clear he would not downgrade the UK's relationship with the desert kingdom - one of  its closest allies in the Middle East - in response to the case, because Saudi Arabia shared intelligence which was important to keep Britain safe.