A Saudi man is sentenced to death after his tweets criticizing country's leadership

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A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to death for his statements on his Twitter criticizing the government.



MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to death over his criticism of that country’s leadership. Saudi activists claim that his tweets, retweets, and other social media posts were used as proof of his alleged crimes for insulting the king and crown prince or supporting terrorist ideologies. NPR’s Aya batrawy reports.

AYA BTRAWY, LINE: Muhammad al-Ghamdi, a father of seven, is a retired educator who operated two anonymous Twitter accounts before he went to jail last year. Human Rights Watch reports that the accounts only had 10 followers and that al-Ghamdi mainly retweeted tweets by other people critical of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Activists claim that the death sentence handed down by Saudi Arabia’s special criminal court to al-Ghamdi was the most severe among a series of sentences against Saudis who expressed dissent on the internet. In other cases, prison sentences have ranged between 20 and 45 years. Lina Al Hathloul, a Saudi activist for human rights, lives in exile in Europe.

LINA ALHATHLOUL: I think that the message is very clear. You are not safe, no matter what you do or who you are. And you have to just muzzle yourself.

BATRAWY: Saudi authorities haven’t commented publicly on the case. Al-Ghamdi’s older brother, Saeed, believes the case is actually aimed at pressuring him…

SAEED AL-GHAMDI: (Non-English language spoken).

BATRAWY: …An outspoken Islamic scholar and government critic who runs a human rights group called Sanad in the U.K. He claims he has refused to return to Saudi Arabia where he fears he would be silenced by the Saudi authorities. Aya Batrawy, NPR News, Dubai.

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