In Saudi Arabia, a man has been sentenced to death solely for his activities on Twitter (now X) and YouTube. This is reported by the AP news agency and Human Rights Watch (HRW), citing the verdict against Mohammed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi. According to the human rights organization, the retired teacher was accused of lese majeste and supporting and communicating with terrorists. He is said to have done this on two Twitter accounts, which had two and eight followers respectively and on which he mainly shared other people’s posts that were critical of the government. Why exactly he was targeted is unclear, writes AP, but mentions that his brother is a well-known government critic who lives in London.
Judgment possibly as a means of pressure against the brother
As Human Rights Watch further writes, the now 54-year-old was arrested in Mecca on June 11, 2022 in front of his wife and children. He was then locked up in solitary confinement in a prison north of Jeddah for four months and was not given legal representation for almost a year. Even after that, he was only allowed to speak to his defense lawyers shortly before the negotiations. Meanwhile, the prosecution had also called for the maximum sentence “because the extent of his crimes was aggravated by the fact that he committed them on a global platform.” That makes the maximum penalty necessary.
According to HRW, the convicted man does not describe himself as an activist, but as a private citizen who simply expressed opinions about the government. In Saudi Arabia, sentences have already been imposed on family members of government critics in order to encourage them to return, AP writes about the possible background.
The verdict that has now become public fits in with a series of punishments in the recent past that make it clear how decisively and unscrupulously Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of Mohammed bin Salman, is taking action against critics, while the country has been running a real PR campaign internationally for years. The imposition of the death penalty solely on the basis of tweets and posts on YouTube is also notable because the investment company of a cousin of the incumbent crown prince is now the second largest shareholder in the short message service of US billionaire Elon Musk.
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