Coronavirus pandemic fails to deter aggressive Saudi arrest campaign

Coronavirus pandemic fails to deter latest Saudi arrest campaign
2 min read
01 April, 2020
Some of those arrested in the latest crackdown were reportedly figures close to the Saudi establishment.
Saudi authorities appear to be unphased by the Covid-19 pandemic [Getty]
Security authorities in Saudi Arabia launched an aggressive campaign of arrests on Wednesday, according to a Twitter account which monitors the situation of political prisoners in the kingdom.

Unphased by the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, those reportedly detained by police were prominent figures active on social media, which included an Islamic activist and a doctoral student.

Official channels have offered no comment the latest crackdown.

According to The New Arab's Arabic language service, social media accounts loyal to the Saudi monarchy had threatened various public figures in the kingdom for opinions expressed online during the ''Arab Spring'' uprisings in the Middle East in 2011.

It is believed that these posts and more recent tweets calling for the release of prisoners of conscience as a preventative measure to combat the spread of the virus in Saudi prisons, may have spurred the arrest of 40-year old Snapchat celebrity Mansour Al-Raqiba.

Linked to both the media arm of Saudi's interior ministry as well as ''Misk'', a non-for-profit organisation run Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, Al-Raqiba's arrest is likely to come as a surprise to his army of followers. 

Last year, the Saudi embassy in London intervened to save him from arrest for in altogether unrelated matter, after videos of him and his associates circulated showing them plucking the wings of a bird in a hotel bathroom.

While arrests of outspoken dissidents are a far more common occurence in the kingdom, Al-Raqiba is not the sole public figure close to the establishment to be condemned in recent days for calls to free prisoners.

On Sunday, the famous Saudi preacher Saleh Al Mughamsi was suddenly relieved of his duties as the Imam of of the Quba mosque in Medina, the first mosque to date to lifetime of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, for a tweet in which he claimed the release of those held for minor offences was religiously sanctioned.

Saudi authorities are currently attempting to contain an outbreak of Covid-19 that has infected at least 1,563 people and claimed 10 lives in the country.

Read also: Saudi urges Muslims to defer hajj plans over coronavirus 

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