Leading Islamic organisation condemns Saudi trial of cleric
A leading Islamic organisation has condemned Saudi Arabia for seeking the death penalty against moderate cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awdah.
The General Secretary of the International Union of Muslim Scholars [IUMS] made the comments to The New Arab's Arabic-language service on Tuesday.
"What is going on in Saudi Arabia is strange beyond belief," Ali Karadagi said.
"This kingdom was founded on the Salafi doctrine and has established it and now it is fighting this doctrine by arresting and trying Muslims scholars,"
"We are no longer surprised by any charges against Sheikh Awdah," he said, adding that the union condemned a crackdown on Saudi clerics.
Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor sought the death penalty against Sheikh Awdah at the start of his trial on Tuesday in Riyadh, a year after he was arrested along with 20 other clerics.
Awdah faces 37 charges, media close to the Saudi government reported, without offering any details.
Awdah was arrested in September 2017 after he criticised the Saudi-led blockade of neighbouring Qatar, amid a widening crackdown on dissent in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Awdah is the assistant secretary-general of the Qatar-based IUMS, which is listed in Saudi Arabia and other members of the anti-Qatar bloc as a terrorist organisation.
According to Awdah's family, Saudi authorities had demanded that the cleric and other prominent figures publicly back the kingdom in the Gulf crisis but he refused.
This week, Awdah's son said his father has been subjected to humiliating treatment while in prison.
Abdallah Awdah, who lives in exile in the United States, earlier this month said his father would be subjected to a secret trial on terrorism charges.
Awdah was hospitalised in the western city of Jeddah after almost five months in solitary confinement, Amnesty International said in January.