Saudi Barbaria: Man Sentenced To Death For Tweets

 A number of pundits have long called it Saudi Barbaria for a reason...

"A Saudi court has sentenced a man to death over his posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, and his activity on YouTube, the latest in a widening crackdown on dissent in the kingdom that has drawn international criticism," The Associated Press reports Wednesday. It's a first even for Saudi Arabia, long known for beheading people for engaging in street protests against the king and royal court.

The man who has now been sentenced to death, Mohammed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi, merely expressed criticisms online of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), the king, and the Saudi royals. He is set to be executed for tweeting and comments on YouTube.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) was the first to highlight the case this week, stressing that the Saudi judiciary actually tried the speech case in a special counterterrorism court.

HRW details that "On July 10, 2023, the Specialized Criminal Court, Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism tribunal, convicted Muhammad al-Ghamdi, 54, a retired Saudi teacher, of several criminal offenses related solely to his peaceful expression online.

"The court sentenced him to death, using his tweets, retweets, and YouTube activity as the evidence against him," the report says. 

Indeed much of his online activity merely consisted of retweets of others' criticisms of Saudi government leaders, and this was from a couple of anonymous accounts which each had merely ten or so followers.

This certainly sets legal precedent for aggressively going after others for online speech, given the tweets came under the umbrella of the kingdom's draconian terrorism laws. The HRW report documents further:

Court documents Human Rights Watch reviewed show that the Specialized Criminal Court sentenced al-Ghamdi to death on July 10 under article 30 of Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism law for "describing the King or the Crown Prince in a way that undermines religion or justice," article 34 for "supporting a terrorist ideology," article 43 for "communication with a terrorist entity," and article 44 for publishing false news "with the intention of executing a terrorist crime." Al-Ghamdi’s trial judgment states that he used his accounts on the X, formally Twitter, platform and YouTube to commit his "crimes."

Though the Saudis do not own any part of X (as recent rumors have claimed), according to SEC filings, activists have been urging Elon Musk to speak out in condemnation of Saudi Arabia.

In another recent similar case, a student named Salma al-Shehab along with others are facing decades-long prison sentences for their online postings.

The AP has concluded, "The sentences appear part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s wider effort to stamp out any defiance in the kingdom as he pursues massive building projects and other diplomatic deals to raise his profile globally."

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