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Imam of Grand Mosque in Mecca serving a 10-year prison sentence for opposing normalization

The Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Saleh Al Talib, has been imprisoned for almost six years due to his Friday sermons, which stressed the importance of “enjoining good and forbidding evil” under all circumstances. He also demanded that the Arab people resist the wave of normalizing ties with the Israeli occupation, rejecting evil in accordance with his religious beliefs. His imprisonment was enforced by the Saudi authorities based on these arguments, and he has not been able to communicate with the outside world since.

In August 2018, Sheikh Saleh Al Talib was detained under mysterious circumstances. For years, no official statement was issued about his arrest conditions or charges. However, his detention coincided with the sermon previously mentioned, which led many analysts to speculate that this was the reason for his detention.

Initially, the Specialized Criminal Court acquitted him, but the Court of Appeal overturned the decision in August 2022 and sentenced him to 10 years in prison following a secret trial, in which he was denied legal representation.

Sheikh Saleh Al Talib was the Grand Mosque in Mecca’s imam. He served as a judge in Riyadh’s Grand and Urgent Court for three years as well. Prior to his arrest six years ago, he served as a judge in the Grand Court of Mecca and worked in courts in other governorates.

Sheikh Saleh had voiced his opposition to the Crown Prince’s new policies shortly before his arrest. These policies included closing religious institutions and replacing them with entertainment venues, which the Sheikh had denounced at the conclusion of his sermon. The Crown Prince also sought to force society into these new policies.

 During his final sermon, for which he was arrested, the sheikh challenged the Zionist narrative and insisted that Palestine, its people, and its sanctities must be preserved. He clarified that the land of Palestine is the right of Arabs and Muslims, rejecting the tendency of Arab governments to support the Israeli occupation at the expense of the Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa issues.

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