Saudi Arabia has issued death sentences for two Shia citizens for allegedly collaborating with terrorist groups, as a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues against political dissidents and pro-democracy campaigners in the kingdom.
The kingdom’s Specialized Criminal Court handed down death sentences to Ali Muhammad al-Rabi and Ali Hassan al-Safwani on Tuesday, according to a report by the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights.
This is while the Saudi prosecutor’s office had earlier called for a 20-year prison sentence as well as a travel ban to prevent them from leaving the country.
Ali Muhammad—who is from a Shia community which faces systematic discrimination by the Saudi regime -- has been accused of being a member of a terrorist organization, supporting a terrorist ideology, helping and sheltering a number of terrorists and providing them with food, using information networks and social networks, and plans to contact terrorists.
Ali Muhammad was arrested on February 7, 2021, after Saudi forces attacked his house without a warrant. He was held in solitary confinement for 3 months and denied access to his family during this time.
Ali Hassan has also been accused of being a member of a terrorist organization, supporting terrorist ideology, and aiding and abetting a number of terrorists.
Both of them had rejected the accusations in court and had been forced to confess without having access to a lawyer, the European human rights body said.
Since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested hundreds of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others for their political activism, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnation of the crackdown.
Muslim scholars have been executed and women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured as freedom of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied by the kingdom's authorities.
Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.