Saudi Arabia is once again planning to execute religious activists, according to the "Middle East Eye" website. Madawi Al-Rasheed, an expert on Saudi society, says mass executions are becoming common in the Gulf kingdom.
Middle East Eye, an online platform devoted to news from the region, has reported on Saudi plans to imminently execute three religious activists. Clerics Salman al-Odah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari are expected to be put to death once Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, ends on June 4.
The German branch of Reporters Without Borders, along with Human Rights Watch head Kenneth Roth, immediately shared the news on Twitter. And Al-Jazeera and other Arabic media have also started covering the news.
The Gulf monarchy last carried out such an execution in April, when 37 where put to death. DW spoke with Madawi Al-Rasheed, a London-based social anthropologist originally from Saudi Arabia, about whether Riyadh is planning another wave of politically-motivated executions.
Madawi Al-Rasheed: Based on what I know, Saudi courts have not yet handed down the death sentence. But the public prosecutor is clearly considering the death penalty. The judiciary has brought 37 charges against cleric Salman al-Odah alone. The Saudi regime could exploit the tense political climate in the region to carry out the death sentences — especially when it comes to allegations concerning ties to Qatar or conflicts with Iran. The three clerics are accused of terrorism and espionage, as well as being members of the Muslim Brotherhood. So once again, we're expecting to see death sentences — though nobody can know for sure.
After the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October, the Saudi regime saw that the international community was in no way prepared to impose sanctions or jeopardize its own economic interests. The US government, in particular, ignored its own CIA reports about the killing, as if President Donald Trump were simply trying to exonerate Saudi Arabia.
The report in Middle East Eye cites anonymous sources, making them almost impossible to verify. Is it possible that someone is deliberately trying to tarnish Saudi Arabia's image, as argued by regime loyalists?
It's true; the report doesn't name its sources. But that's nothing unusual. Saudi dissidents often speak to international media under condition of anonymity. Otherwise, they risk facing reprisals by the regime. In this respect, the Saudi regime is not doing itself any favors by undermining transparency and shrouding its practices in secrecy.