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Saudi Arabia to execute three prominent moderate scholars after Ramadan

The treatment of Salman al-Odah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari, all facing charges of ‘terrorism’, has been condemned by rights groups

Salman al-Odah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari are all set to be executed after Ramadan (Twitter)
Three prominent moderate Saudi Sunni scholars held on multiple charges of “terrorism” will be sentenced to death and executed shortly after Ramadan, two government sources and one of the men’s relatives have told Middle East Eye.

The most prominent of these is Sheikh Salman al-Odah, an internationally renowned scholar known for his comparatively progressive views in the Islamic world on Sharia and homosexuality.

Odah was arrested in September 2017 shortly after tweeting a prayer for reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbour Qatar, three months after Riyadh launched a blockade on the emirate.

The other two slated for execution are Awad al-Qarni, a Sunni preacher, academic and author, and Ali al-Omari, a popular broadcaster. They too were arrested in September 2017.

All three had massive followings online. Odah’s Arabic Twitter account boasts 13.4 million followers alone, and the hashtag #freesalmanalodah emerged after his arrest. Omari’s TV station “For Youth” also had a huge audience.

Two Saudi government sources independently confirmed the plan to execute the three men, who are currently awaiting trial at the Criminal Special Court in Riyadh. A hearing was set for 1 May, but was postponed without setting a further date.

One source told MEE: “They will not wait to execute these men once the death sentence has been passed.”

A second Saudi government source said the execution of 37 Saudis, mostly Shia activists, on terrorism changes in April was used as a trial balloon to see how strong the international condemnation was. Source

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