The British newspaper The Guardian has reported that the Saudi prosecutors seek death penalty for “prominent pro-reform law professor” Dr. Awad Al-Qarni for various crimes, including his use of WhatsApp.
Al-Qarni “is facing the death penalty for alleged crimes including having a Twitter account and using WhatsApp to share news considered hostile to the kingdom, according to court documents seen by the Guardian”, reported the Guardian.
Documents seen by the British newspaper state that al-Qarni ‘admitted’ participating in a WhatsApp chat, and was accused of participating in videos in which he praised the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Al-Qarni has been portrayed in the regime-controlled media as a “dangerous preacher”, though The Guardian reports that Saudi “dissidents have said Al-Qarni was an important and well-regarded intellectual with a strong social media following, including 2m Twitter followers.”
The newspaper’s reporting was partly based on information provided by Awad’s son, Nasser, who is currently seeking asylum in Britain.
The Saudi authorities arrested al-Qarni in September 2017, as part of a campaign of arrests of activists, intellectuals, and lawyers.
Al-Qarni faces charges that carry the death penalty, such as “disobeying the [country’s] ruler” and “destabilising state security.”
The law professor’s health has significantly deteriorated since his arrest due to the conditions of his detention.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is widely acknowledged to have led a campaign of domestic repression in the kingdom since his coming to effective power in April 2015.
Hundreds of human rights activists, religious figures, and academics continue to suffer arbitrary detention in the kingdom, often on charges such as “terrorism” and “conspiracy against the state”, despite calls for their release from major human rights organisations and global public figures.
The Saudi legal system is widely recognised to often fail to meet even the basic standards of legal fairness.