Mohammed Bin Salman, the person who has emerged as a powerful figure in Saudi Arabia and even as the de facto ruler, has managed to get a lot of favorable press in the west by allowing women to drive, and the media have fawned over him as a reformer, suggesting that his friendship with Jared Kushner is a sign that he has modern values and that he is leading the country away from its ghastly and barbaric practices. But today comes word that the government is seeking the death penalty for a woman activist merely for participating in protests.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution is seeking the death penalty against five Eastern Province activists, including female human rights activist Israa al-Ghomgham, Human Rights Watch said today. The activists, along with one other person not facing execution, are being tried in the country’s terrorism tribunal on charges solely related to their peaceful activism.
The Public Prosecution, which reports directly to the king, accused the detained activists of several charges that do not resemble recognizable crimes, including “participating in protests in the Qatif region,” “incitement to protest,” “chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” “attempting to inflame public opinion,” “filming protests and publishing on social media,” and “providing moral support to rioters.” It called for their execution based on the Islamic law principle of ta’zir, in which the judge has discretion over the definition of what constitutes a crime and over the sentence.
Saudi activists told Human Rights Watch that the Public Prosecution’s recent demand makes al-Ghomgham the first female activist to possibly face the death penalty for her human rights-related work, which sets a dangerous precedent for other women activists currently behind bars.
Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), set up in 2008 to try terrorism cases, has since been increasingly used to prosecute peaceful dissidents. The court is notorious for its violations of fair trial standards and has previously sentenced other Shia activists to death on politically motivated charges.
Yeah, Kushner’s buddy is a real reformer, isn’t he? But just wait. No doubt he will soon visit the US and announce some minor concession and the media here will swoon over him again.
And of course, they will ignore the vicious and murderous campaign that his country, under his leadership, is waging against Yemen, since the US and its ally the UAE are partners in those war crimes.