Saudi Arabia seeks to crackdown on dissent, wants death penalty for Shia woman and four human rights activists

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against five human rights activists from the kingdom’s Eastern Province currently on trial in a secretive terrorism court, groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

Among the detainees is Israa al-Ghomgham, whom Saudi activists said was the first woman to possibly face the death penalty for rights-related work. Charges against her include incitement to protest and providing moral support to rioters.

File image of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. AP

File image of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. AP

Monstrous, says HRW
“Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behaviour, is monstrous,” Sarah Leah Whitson, official at HRW, said in a statement on Wednesday. ALQST, a London-based Saudi rights group, reported the decision involving Ghomgham’s case earlier this week. A government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Activists said the trial was ongoing, and denied social media reports that the detainees had already been executed.

Saudi Arabia, under its powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has sought to crack down on dissent, with many activists, including women, arrested in the last one year.

Protests in 2011
Ghomgham is a prominent Shia Muslim activist who documented mass demonstrations in the Eastern Province starting in 2011. She was arrested from her home in December 2015.

Most of the country’s Shia minority lives in the oil-producing Eastern Province and some have complained that their religious ceremonies are banned or interfered with by Sunni authorities, and that they lack opportunities for work and education. The government has denied the charges.

Saudi Arabia has previously executed Shia activists on what rights groups called politically-motivated charges.

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Updated Date: Aug 23, 2018 08:34:40 IST

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