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Distinguished anti-regime Saudi sheikh dies in prison amid widening crackdown

Late Saudi Muslim preacher Sheikh Fahad al-Qadi (Photo via Twitter)

A well-known Muslim preacher has died in prison in Saudi Arabia, as a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against pro-democracy campaigners, Muslim preachers and intellectuals widens in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The Prisoners of Conscience, an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page that Sheikh Fahad al-Qadi had lost his life in jail as a result of deliberate medical negligence.

The post added that Sheikh Qadi was transferred to hospital just hours before his death despite the fact that he was in dire need of medication following deterioration in his health condition more than a week ago.

On October 24, the Prisoners of Conscience reported that the prominent Saudi cleric had been sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “sending a secret letter of advice” to the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia back in 2016. The cleric was being kept in detention after he posted the letter.

Imprisoned dissident scholar suffering from drug poisoning

Separately, imprisoned Sheikh Awad al-Qarni is reportedly suffering from drug poisoning after officials at the maximum-security al-Ha'ir Prison, located approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the capital Riyadh, purposefully gave him wrong medication at the end of last month.

He was then taken to hospital, and has been kept there ever since.

Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.

Saudi officials have also intensified crackdown in the country's Shia-populated Eastern Province.

Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.

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