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SAUDI ARABIA: Peaceful Human Rights Activist Facing Beheading

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A 29-year-old Shiite rights activist, arrested along with her husband Moussa al-Hashem in December 2015 has been in pretrial detention ever since without any legal representation–now, her government wants to execute her.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, Israa al-Ghomgham will be tried before the Saudi terrorism tribunal solely on charges related to peaceful human-rights activism.

Ghomgham is facing, along with five other Shiites the usual Saudi mode of execution for fomenting protests in the Qatif area of Eastern Province, beheading.

These “crimes” include posting on social media, chanting slogans hostile to the regime, providing moral support to rioters, filing protests, and seeking to inflame public opinion.

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With none of these crimes even remotely related to terrorism (even though the Specialized Criminal Court has already sent others who have protested to the executioner), this is simply the exercising of free speech.

According to an article by Human Rights Watch, the court sentenced Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric, along with seven other men to death for their role in the 2011 Eastern Province demonstrations in 2014–and then another 14 people in 2016 for participating in the protests. On January 2, 2016, al-Namir and at least three other Shia men were executed by Saudi authorities during the largest mass execution since 1980, putting 47 men to death.

This, during a supposed push to liberalize Saudi Arabia under the crown prince who’s running the kingdom, Mohammed bin Salman. Makes you wonder if he approves or perhaps MBS’ control that feeble.

Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson explains, “Every day, the Saudi monarchy’s unrestrained despotism makes it harder for its public-relations teams to spin the fairy tale of ‘reform’ to allies and international business.” Whitson adds, “Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behavior, is monstrous.”

October 28th is the date set for the next hearing on the case. Ghomham and her co-defendants will be immediately released if the prince is truly serious about reform.

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