In the end he received a sentence consistent with the highest historic standards of religious justice: beheading, followed by crucifixion of his corpse. An appeal to the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court was rejected and, barring intervention by the king, the sentence could now be carried out at any time.
Perhaps stung by rising international criticism, the Saudi ambassador to the UN said, "We respectfully request the world to respect our systems and our judicial processes, and our laws and regulations, and not to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state." Which, of course, is the kind of thing apartheid South Africa used to say when criticized for brutality against those it treated as second-class citizens on racial rather than religious grounds. The ambassador also said, "The application of sharia law as far as human rights is concerned is the highest form of human rights.....We believe that we are holding ourselves to the highest standards." I would like to comment on this statement as it applies to a sentence of beheading and crucifixion for participating in a protest, but I cannot. My command of language is just not up to the task.
You can read about the whole thing here. Al-Nimr's mother is calling upon President Obama to intervene with the king. (If he does, we may never hear about it -- it might be more effective to raise the matter behind the scenes rather than in public, so that if the king saves al-Nimr he is not seen as bowing to foreign pressure.) Right now Britain is also trying to persuade the regime to commute a sentence of 360 lashes imposed on an elderly British man in Saudi Arabia who was caught in possession of alcohol, and the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes plus 10 years in prison for vague charges which boil down to questioning the regime's authority, continues to draw attention. Many other such cases pass with less notice.
The Saudi regime is not unique, of course. ISIS also oppresses and murders Shiites and imposes barbaric Sharî'ah punishments; the Iranian theocracy hangs homosexuals and arrests and brutalizes political opponents. But neither of those regimes is treated as a member in good standing of the international community. True, Saudi Arabia has more oil than ISIS or Iran, but the influence its rulers wield because of that is the influence of a meth pusher, feeding our addiction to the fossil fuels that are poisoning and overheating the planet. If averting global warming isn't enough motivation to spur on our conversion to solar and other non-destructive energy, freeing ourselves from ignoble dependence on these barbaric thugs ought to help.
The Saudi regime is traditionally an ally of the US in a region where many elements are hostile to us. But giving the regime a pass on its atrocities because of this is simply repeating a mistake we've made before. The Shah of Iran was once an ally of ours too, and look how that turned out in the long run. Does anyone really think that Arabia will be ruled by the Saudi regime for ever and ever?
When the regime is gone, we will be judged by what we did about it while it was in power. Apartheid South Africa was once an ally of the US as well, but as progress in the rest of the world made its official racism impossible to stomach, our role shifted to increasing pressure on the country to change. It is that, not all our earlier excuses and rationalizations for the regime, that is remembered with respect now. We need to follow the same course with Arabia.