Saudi Arabian prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five human rights activists, including a woman believed to be the first female demonstrator in the country to face execution.
Israa al-Ghomgham, a Shia Muslim activist who was arrested along with her husband in 2015, is slated to be tried in the Muslim-majority country’s terrorism tribunal, according to Human Rights Watch. The charges she is facing regard her peaceful activism.
This lady is 29. She’s been in “pretrial” detention for 3 years. Her “crime” is expressing her views on the social/political regime of her country. We’ve all done that right? But we aren’t facing beheading #IsraaAlGhomgham #WomensRights https://t.co/y0wLksCmJm
— The Happy Chicken Garden (@HapiChicGarden) August 24, 2018
Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director for HRW, said any execution “is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomghan, who are no even accused of violent behavior, is monstrous.”
Al-Ghomgham is a Shia activist well known for participating in and documenting mass demonstrations in the Eastern Province that began in early 2011, calling for an end to the systematic discrimination that Saudi Shia citizens face in the majority-Sunni country. Authorities arrested al-Ghomgham and her husband in a night raid on their home on December 6, 2015 and have held them in Dammam’s al-Mabahith prison ever since.
The charges Al-Ghomgham faces, according to HRW, “do not resemble recognizable crimes.” She has been charged with participating in protests, chanting slogans hostile toward the Saudi government, attempting to spark outrage among the public, and filming and posting protest-related content on social media.
Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia face repeated discrimination at the hands of the Muslim Sunnis, who make up the majority of the nation’s population.
Saudi Arabia already has one of world's highest execution rates, and the "reformist" crown prince now threatens to behead a 29-year-old female activist (a first) accused of encouraging protests for greater rights for the country's Shiite Muslim minority.
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) August 23, 2018
The peaceful demonstrator is due back in court Oct. 28.
“If the crown prince is truly serious about reform,” Whitson said, “he should immediately step in to ensure no activist is unjustly detained for his or her human rights work.”