Saudi Arabia seeks death penalty for ‘peaceful’ activists

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against five human-rights activists on charges related to “peaceful activism,” according to New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW press release).

The accused on trial in the country’s terrorism tribunal include Israa al-Ghomgham, said to be the first female human rights activist to face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

According to HRW, the activists face charges “that do not resemble recognizable crimes.” Charges include “participating in protests in the Qatif region,” “chanting slogans hostile to the regime” and “providing moral support to rioters.”

“Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behavior, is monstrous,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Although the Saudi Arabian kingdom recently has been praised for enacting progressive measures, such as lifting a ban that prohibited women from driving, the trial has drawn criticism.

“Saudi Arabia’s move toward greater gender equality now appears to be extending into the realm of political repression, according to advocacy groups,” reported CBS News.

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