A Saudi law professor who advocated reforms has been in prison for years. The prosecution demands that he should also be executed for tweeting.
In Saudi Arabia, a well-known law professor faces the death penalty for, among other things, “owning a Twitter account” and spreading “hostile” messages to the kingdom via WhatsApp and Telegram. This is reported by the British newspaper “The Guardian”, citing the indictment against Awad Al-Qarni. The prominent professor, who campaigned for reforms in the kingdom, was arrested in 2017 when Mohammed bin Salman, who had just been appointed crown prince, had begun to crack down on criticism. His account, which has been inactive since then, has over two million followers on Twitter alone.
Tweeting as a criminal act
The Guardian has the court documents from the son of the accused lawyer. He has since fled to the UK. The allegations confirm that the use of social networks has been criminalized in Saudi Arabia since bin Salman came to power. According to the report, two women were sentenced to 34 and even 45 years in prison last year because they had a Twitter account and shared criticism of the kingdom.
Awad Al-Qarni has now “confessed” to having used his Twitter account to “express my opinion at every opportunity […]”. Participation in WhatsApp chats and setting up an account on Telegram are also among the allegations. Although the indictment called for the death penalty, the court has not yet issued a verdict.
The actions of the Islamic monarchy are particularly sinister because of the enormous financial stake in the criticized services, explains Jeed Basyouni, a representative of the human rights organization Reprieve. The Saudi Prince al-Walid ibn Talal is the second largest shareholder on Twitter after Elon Musk. The Saudi sovereign wealth fund PIF, in turn, has invested in WhatsApp parent company Meta, adds the Guardian.
The newspaper also notes that a Saudi citizen recently fled the FBI amid allegations of infiltrating Twitter and spying on users. The man makes no secret of his stay in Saudi Arabia and was even invited to a Netflix-sponsored event in Riyadh.