Iranian Sunni clerics in a letter to the UN and other international organizations called for heightened efforts to free prominent Shiite cleric Nimr Baqr al-Nimr who has received a death sentence from a Saudi court.
“We, a group of Sunni clerics in Iran, on behalf of the Clergymen and the Sunni community in Iran, condemn this inhumane verdict which is issued in contrary to international and judicial practices and demand its immediate abolition and the unconditional release of this religious cleric,” the letter said on Thursday.
In addition to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, copies of the letter have been sent to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, President of the Human Rights Council Joachim Rücker, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Iyad Ameen Madani.
The Sunni clerics also asked the Iranian foreign ministry to make every diplomatic effort to ensure Sheikh Nimr’s freedom.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
“In the name of God the Compassionate the Merciful
To: Ban Ki-moon
The Honorable Secretary General of the United Nations
As your highness is aware, it has been more than three years since the unjustified arrest of the leading Saudi religious cleric, Nimr Bakir al-Nimr, and this injustice has reached its peak after issuing and confirming his death sentence by the Saudi Interior Ministry.
This unjustified verdict has been issued in Saudi intelligence chambers but not in courts and judiciary systems and seeks to put an end to objections and demands of the people regarding the minorities and women’s rights. Continuing these practices and execution of this cruel verdict will further inflame protests against the Saudi regime and will offend over a billion and a half Muslims.
We, a group of Sunni clerics in Iran, on behalf of the Clergymen and the Sunni community in Iran, condemn this inhumane verdict which is issued in contrary to international and judicial practices and demand its immediate abolition and the unconditional release of this religious cleric.
It is expected that your highness and the organization under your management take necessary steps by opposition and condemnation of this verdict to release this leading religious cleric.
Mawlavi Nazir Ahmad Salami, the representative of Sistan and Baluchestan Sunni community in the clerical assembly of supreme leader (Experts Assembly)
Mamosta Abdorahman Khodayi, the representative of Kurdistan people in the clerical assembly of supreme leader (Experts Assembly) and the Friday Prayers Imam of Sanandaj Sunni community
Mullah Ghorban Mohammad Onagh, member of planning council for Iranian Sunni seminaries and senior member of Sunni jurisprudential circle in northern Iran
Mawlawi Ishaq Madani, the former presidential advisor for Sunni affairs
Mamosta Mola Ghader Ghaderi, member of planning council for Iranian Sunni seminaries and the Friday Prayers Imam of Paveh Sunni community
Mawlawi Abdorahman Sarbazi, member of planning council for Iranian Sunni seminaries and the Friday Prayers Imam of Chabahar Sunni community
Sheikh Abdolbaes Ghatali, the Friday Prayers Imam of Bandar Abbas Sunni community
Sheikh Abdolaziz Ghazizadeh, the Friday Prayers Imam of owz Sunni community
Mullah Haji Mohammad Abedi Kor, the Friday Prayers Imam of Bandar Torkman Sunni community
Sheikh Khalil Afra, member of planning council for Iranian Sunni seminaries and the chairman of clergy and Fatwa council of Bushehr Sunni community
Mawlawi Sharafoddin Jami Alahmadi, member of planning council for Iranian Sunni seminaries and the Friday Prayers Imam of Torbat Jam Sunni community and the headmaster of Ahmadieh Religious School
Sheikh Mohammad aziz Hanifi, member of planning council for Iranian Sunni seminaries and the Friday Prayers Imam of Fishur Sunni community
Sheikh Abdorahim Khatibi, member of planning council for Iranian Sunni seminaries and the Friday Prayers Imam of Gheshm Sunni community
Mullah Galdi Kamali, the headmaster of Khademieh Sunni Religious School in Khorasan Shomali
Mawlawi abdosamad Sadati, the headmaster of Sunni Religious School and the Friday Prayers Imam of Saravan Sunni community
Mamosta Dr Mullah Mostafa Mahmmodi, member of planning council for Iranian Sunni seminaries and the Friday Prayers Imam of Piranshahr Sunni community
Mamosta Mohammad Amin Rasti, member of planning council for Iranian Sunni seminaries and instructor and the interim Friday Prayers Imam of Sanandaj Sunni community
Sheikh Abdolkarim Mohammadi, Leading instructor in Sunni religious schools in southern Iran
Mamosta Dr. Abed Naghibi, Jurist and a member of the World Assembly of Muslim clerics.”
Also in October, Iranian human rights activists and academics called on the OIC to pressure the Saudi regime to halt carrying out the death sentence against Sheikh Nimr.
The Iranian activists in a letter to OIC Secretary-General Iyad Madani voiced their regret over Riyadh’s decision to uphold Sheikh Nimr’s death penalty, and described the verdict as “brutal and unfair”.
“Executing people merely for exercising their right to free speech and taking part in peaceful demonstration is in contravention of natural human rights as well as the principles of the religion of Islam,” parts of the letter said.
The Iranian activists also called on the Muslim body to shoulder its responsibilities vis-à-vis the human rights issues and the rights of minorities in its member nations.
“Such a ruling also runs contrary to the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, which should be respected by all OIC member states, including Saudi Arabia,” the letter added.
They also demanded that the OIC adopt all possible measures and pile pressure on Riyadh to overturn Sheikh Nimr’s death sentence, saying that the organization could also seek help, if necessary, from other international rights institutions to this end.
Nimr was attacked and arrested in the Qatif region of Eastern Province in July 2012, and has been charged with undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. Nimr has denied the accusations.
In October 2014, a Saudi court sentenced Sheikh Nimr to death, provoking huge condemnations and criticism in the Middle East and the world.
On October 25, Nimr’s family confirmed that the Saudi Supreme Court and the Specialized Appeals Court had endorsed a death sentence issued last year against him for inciting sectarian strife and disobeying King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The cleric has denied the charges.
The Shiite cleric’s lawyer, Sadeq al-Jubran, has also said that Nimr could be executed as soon as the Saudi monarch approves his sentence.
Human rights organizations have condemned Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.