Saudi Arabia will execute three prominent scholars who are being held on multiple charges of “terrorism” shortly after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
One of the men was arrested in September last year shortly after he tweeted a prayer for reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar amid the neighbours’ diplomatic crisis.
All three scholars – cleric Sheikh Salman al-Odah, author Awad al-Qarni and broadcaster Ali al-Omari – have a massive presence online, with al-Odah’s Twitter account having more than 13million followers.
Saudi Arabia, Britain’s ally in the Middle East, is one of the world’s most prolific executioners behind only China and Iran, according to Amnesty International.
In April, Riyadh executed 37 nationals who were convicted on “terrorism” charges, including a young man who was convicted of a crime he allegedly committed when he was under 18.
All 37 were beheaded, and one was crucified and then put on public display.
At least 105 people – 44 of them are foreign nationals – have been executed by Saudi Arabia in 2019, said the human rights group Reprieve.
The oil-rich kingdom carried out 149 executions in 2018.
Al-Odah, al-Qarni and al-Omari – described as moderate Saudi Sunni scholars – will now be sentenced to death and executed shortly after Ramadan concludes next month.
There has been no comment from Saudi authorities as yet.
Cleric al-Odah, or al-Awdah, is known for comparatively progressive views on Sharia and homosexuality. He has been described by the UN as a “reformist”.
In a tweet shortly before his arrest, he appeared to reference Riyadh’s blockade on Qatar, writing: “May God harmonise between their hearts for the good of their people.”
Al-Qarni is a preacher, academic and author, and Al-Omari is a broadcaster with a TV station called “For Youth”.
All three were arrested in September 2017 amid Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s crackdown on perceived dissidents, and are awaiting trial in Riyadh. Read more