- "Since his arrest two years ago, he has suffered greatly, including prolonged pre-trial detention, months of solitary confinement."
- Thirty seven who were executed in April.
- Amnesty International said he was arrested, a few hours after writing a tweet, in which he welcomed reports of possible reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and neighbor Qatar.
Amnesty International has called on the Saudi authorities to release prominent preacher Salman Al-Awda immediately and unconditionally and to drop all charges against him. This came after the Saudi prosecutor called for the execution of Salman Al-Awda, 62, before his scheduled appearance on July 28.
“They are very concerned that Sheikh Salman al-Awda could be executed,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East research director at Amnesty International. “Since his arrest two years ago, he has suffered greatly, including prolonged pre-trial detention, months of solitary confinement and other ill-treatment and gross violations of his right to a fair trial.”
The Saudi authorities continue to say they are fighting terrorism while this trial, along with the trials of other activists – including 37 who were executed in April – are clearly politicized trials aimed at silencing independent voices in the country. In September last year, it was reported that the Saudi prosecution had demanded a death sentence on terrorism charges on the first day of trial before a “specialized criminal court” in Riyadh.
The accused faced 37 charges, including incitement against the regime. Abdullah, the son of Salman al-Awda, said that among his father’s accusations were criticisms of the authority and the establishment of an organization in Kuwait to defend the Islamic faith. “Sheikh al-Awda was calling for an end to the marginalization of Saudi citizens in Saudi Arabia, so he is now facing punishment,” said Lynn Maalouf. “Any gains the authorities are making from treating their citizens in this way?”
Over the past few years, Saudi Arabia has seen a crackdown on dissidents and arrested dozens of clerics, intellectuals, and activists at a time when the authorities are implementing important social and economic reforms. Salman al-Awda was arrested on September 2017. Amnesty International said he was arrested, a few hours after writing a tweet, in which he welcomed reports of possible reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and neighbor Qatar. He criticized the Saudi regime in the past, but recently remained silent, or refrained from publicly supporting Saudi policies, including Riyadh’s disagreement with Qatar.
The al-Saud family considers the Islamist groups the biggest internal threat to its rule, in a country where hundreds of people have been killed in an al-Qaeda campaign nearly a decade ago. In the 1990s, the Awakening movement, one of its symbols, called for political reforms that would weaken the ruling family in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Awda was imprisoned between 1994 and 1999 for demanding political changes. His criticism of the ruling family caused him to pay tribute to Osama bin Laden, but eventually he declared his rejection of bin Laden’s ideas. Salman Al-Awda’s Twitter account has about 14 million followers.