Saudi government prosecutors demand 'death penalty' for moderate cleric

Saudi government prosecutors demand death penalty for cleric who defended relations with Qatar
3 min read
04 September, 2018
Saudi Arabia's prosecutor, which represents the Riyadh government, has leveled 37 counts against moderate cleric Salman al-Awdah, and called for the death penalty, reported Saudi newspaper Okaz on Tuesday.
Al-Awdah is the assistant secretary-general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars [Twitter]
Saudi public prosecutors have called for the death pently for moderate cleric Salman al-Awdah, as his trial opens in Riyadh.

Awdah was imprisoned a year ago, as part of the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's brutal crackdown on dissent in the kingdom, after he criticised the kingdom's blockade of Gulf neighbour, Qatar.

The Public Prosecution, which represents the Saudi government, have levelled 37 counts against Awdah and called for the death penalty, reported local daily Okaz on Tuesday.

Awdah is the assistant secretary-general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

The organisation, which boasts a diverse membership of Muslim scholars from around the world representing various Muslim denominations and is based in Doha.

It is listed exclusively by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain as a terrorist group, a label critics say is heavily politicised and unjustified.

These same four countries have imposed a blockade on Qatar since June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Qatar denies the allegations and says the Saudi-led bloc is attacking its sovereignty over its independent foreign policy.

Awdah was arrested in September 2017 after he expressed support for Saudi reconciliation with Qatar at the start of the Saudi-led blockade from Arab neighbours.

His arrest was among the first of dozens of people detained last September as part of a crackdown against what Saudi authorities said were those acting "for the benefit of foreign parties against the security of the kingdom and its interests".

Salman al-Awdah's son, Abdallah, who lives in the US, earlier in August said his father would be subjected to a secret trial.

"A prison officer told me about a secret trial, of which my father does not know the details, charges or location," Abdallah tweeted.

"No one is allowed to attend this trial and it seems there is no real legal process. We do not trust sudden secret trials that take place without a lawyer, independent bodies or clear charges."

He added that his father said in a phone call that authorities had suddenly transferred him from a prison in Jeddah to another in the capital Riyadh.

In January, Human Rights Watch said Awdah had not been questioned or charged since his arrest and that he had been held in solitary confinement.

The cleric, known for advocating reforms in recent years, had millions of followers on Twitter.

Riyadh has convicted hundreds of terror suspects in secret tribunals without legal representation, according to HRW.

Saudi Arabia expelled Canada's ambassador, recalled its own envoy and froze all new trade and investments after Ottawa publicly demanded the "immediate release" of rights campaigners jailed in the kingdom.