Saudi prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for Pro-Reform Law Professor over Social Media Use

I admitted participating in a WhatsApp chat and using my Twitter account to share news hostile to the kingdom, this was a part of court documents shared with British newspapers by the son of Saudi prominent pro-reform law professor and preacher Awad Al-Qarni.

Awad Al-Qarni is an important pro-reform intellectual with a strong two-million user following on Twitter, has been sentenced to death after he was arrested in September 2017 in a crackdown against dissent by the Saudi government under the new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Al-Qarni has been portrayed in Saudi-controlled media as a dangerous preacher, but dissidents have said Al-Qarni was an important and well-regarded intellectual with a strong social media following, including 2m Twitter followers.

Details of the charges brought against Al-Qarni have now been shared with the Guardian by his son Nasser, who last year fled the kingdom and is living in the UK, where he is seeking asylum protection.

A translation of the charges against Al-Qarni include the law professor’s “admission” that he used a social media account under his own name (@awadalqarni) and used it “at every opportunity … to express his opinions”.

The documents also state that he “admitted” participating in a WhatsApp chat, and was accused of participating in videos in which he praised the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Qarni’s apparent use of Telegram, and creation of a Telegram account, was also included in allegations.

 Public prosecutors have called for the death penalty in the case, but the court has yet to make a formal judgement. However, this charade cannot be ignored or condoned. Civil society organizations and decision-makers across the world should take a firm position against the Saudi oppressive regime.

Al-Qarni isn’t the only individual to be arrested for voicing his views on social media in Saudi Arabia. Last year, Salma al-Shehab, a Leeds PhD student and mother of two, received a 34-year sentence for having a Twitter account and for following and retweeting dissidents.

Another woman identified as Noura al-Qahtani was sentenced to 45 years in prison for using Twitter.

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