Verdict in Saudi dissident case expected 10 October: family

Prominent Saudi dissident Salman al-Awdah to discover fate at 10 October trial
2 min read
02 October, 2019
Prominent cleric Salman al-Awdah will be sentenced by a Saudi court on 10 October, amid fears he could be given the death penalty.
Sheikh Salman Al-Awdah has been imprisoned since January 2018 [Twitter]

A Saudi court will issue a verdict in the case of dissident Sheikh Salman al-Awdah on 10 October, the prominent cleric's son said Wednesday, amid concerns he will be sentenced to death.

"Today, my father, Salman al-Awdah, was present in a Riyadh court," Abdullah al-Awdah tweeted. "Next Thursday (10 October) will be the sentencing hearing." 

Awdah was among 20 people, including writers and journalists, arrested in September 2017 as part of a crackdown on dissent in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The report from Awdah's son comes the same day the world remembers dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi - exactly one year on from his assasination in Istanbul by a Saudi hit team. 

Awdah's family and Saudi media have said prosecutors are seeking the death penalty

The charge sheet has not been made public. 

Human rights groups have said the trial is a political reprisal against Awdah, a leading figure in a 1990s Islamist movement associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the past two weeks, at least seven sessions in the cleric's case were convened, according to his son. 

In one of the hearings, the prosecution presented "what it called evidence against (Awdah), which was about 2,000 tweets posted to his Twitter account", he added. 

Awdah is a moderate cleric whom his son in an interview with The New Arab described an an intellectual who embraces both religious and reformist values. 

Despite trying to present himself as an intellectual rather than an activist, according to his son, al-Awdah made public calls for reforms such as separating religion and state and democratic elections.

The cleric's family have said Saudi authorities had demanded that Awdah and other prominent figures publicly back the kingdom in a dispute with neighbouring Qatar, but he refused.

Riyadh and several allies cut off all diplomatic and economic ties with Doha in June 2017, accusing it of links to Islamist extremists, a charge Qatar has denied.

Awdah is the assistant secretary-general of the Doha-based International Union of Muslim Scholars - deemed a terrorist organisation by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain. Critics slam this as heavily politicised and unjustified.

Awdah was arrested after tweeting: "May God harmonise between their hearts for the good of their people," which many claim was a call for reconciliation between the Gulf states.

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