Saudi Arabia sentences retired professor to death for Twitter posts

Outrage is mounting after news broke that a retired Saudi Arabian teacher will be executed for a series of tweets criticizing the government’s human rights record.

On July 10, Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court convicted Muhammad al-Ghamdi, 54, of several criminal offenses using his tweets, retweets, and YouTube activity as evidence against him, according to Human Rights Watch.

The tweets in question allegedly relate to criticism of the Saudi royal family and an attempt to free political prisoner Salman al-Awda.

The imminent execution comes amid a “growing crackdown” on human rights in Saudi Arabia.Getty Images

The organization harshly criticized the decision and attacked the ultra-conservative nation’s “repression of freedom of expression and peaceful political dissent.”

“The crackdown in Saudi Arabia has reached a terrifying new stage when a court can hand down the death penalty for nothing more than peaceful tweets,” said Joey Shea, Saudi Arabia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“The Saudi authorities have intensified their campaign against all dissent to mind-boggling levels and should reject this travesty of justice.”

The organization stated that al-Ghamdi was first arrested on June 11, 2022, and was held in solitary confinement for months without the opportunity to communicate with his family, a lawyer, or the outside world.

Saudi Arabia has already executed at least 92 people this year. Saudi Arabia has already executed at least 92 people this year. Getty Images/iStockphoto

His brother, Saeed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi, is a UK-based high-profile Islamic scholar and vocal critic of the Saudi regime, who claims his brother’s arrest and sentencing was an attempt by the authorities to exact revenge on him. he.

In a post on Twitter last month, he said his brother had been sentenced “after five tweets criticizing corruption and human rights violations” and that the “false ruling is intended to spite me personally after failed attempts at investigations into return me to the country.”

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Meanwhile, court documents seen by Human Rights Watch revealed that al-Ghamdi had been sentenced to death on July 10 under Article 30 of Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorism law for “describing the King or Crown Prince in a manner that undermines religion or justice”. , article 34 for “supporting a terrorist ideology”, article 43 for “communication with a terrorist entity” and article 44 for publishing false news “with the intention of carrying out a terrorist crime.”

The sentence was decided because the crimes “attacked the status of the King and the Crown Prince” and because the “magnitude of their actions is amplified by the fact that they occurred through a global media platform, which requires strict punishment.” .

Lina Alhathloul, head of monitoring and advocacy at British human rights organization ALQST, also took to Twitter to condemn the ruling.

“Al-Ghamdi’s death sentence for tweets is extremely horrifying, but is in line with the increasing repression by Saudi authorities. “They are sending a clear and sinister message: that no one is safe and that even a tweet can lead to death,” he stated.

Saudi Arabia has already executed at least 92 people this year, and in 2022 it carried out 148 executions, more than double the grim figure the year before.

In March last year, Saudi Arabia made headlines around the world after announcing that 81 men had been executed in a single day, making it the largest mass execution carried out in the kingdom in many years.

Al Jazeera reported at the time that the men were sentenced to death for various crimes, including murder and terrorism.

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