Mohammed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi, a 54-year-old retired teacher, was given the death penalty by a Saudi court due to his activities on social media sites like Twitter and YouTube. The conservative country had received criticism from Al-Ghamdi for its abuses of human rights.
This case is only one example of the Specialized Criminal Court’s history of unjust trials that resulted in death sentences. The court was ostensibly created to handle terrorist matters but is now increasingly utilized to prosecute activists.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights claims that Al-Ghamdi only had nine followers on his social media pages. The sentencing, according to his brother Saeed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi, a dissident who has been living in exile since 2018, is reprisal against him specifically.
Using information from his tweets, retweets, and YouTube activities, the Saudi counterterrorism court jailed al-Ghamdi in July. In front of his wife and kids, according to Human Rights Watch, he was detained in June 2022. Possibly facing beheading if the sentence is not mitigated.
With 94 executions reported so far this year, Saudi Arabia killed 147 individuals in 2022. In the nation’s largest mass execution in years on March 12, 2022, 81 men were put to death.
Critics Challenge Saudi Vision 2030 Amid Social Media Controversy
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is well-known for his bold Vision 2030 reform program, wants to make Saudi Arabia a major international business and travel destination similar to the United Arab Emirates. Critics contend that bin Salman, particularly on social media, stifles opposition and suppresses criticism.
International outrage was expressed over the death of Saudi dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, which the US Central Intelligence Agency claims was ordered by bin Salman. Bin Salman disputes the accusations in spite of the evidence.
Saudi Arabia has been under fire in recent years for giving people, especially women, lengthy prison terms for posting negative things about the government on social media.
Concerns have been expressed over Saudi Arabia’s tight links to social media site X, whose owner Elon Musk has asserted to be a “absolutist of free speech.” Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is the cousin of Crown Prince bin Salman and owns shares in X through his Kingdom Holding Company, which is the second-largest shareholder with a $1.89 billion market value. Due to worries about the possible Saudi influence on Twitter’s operations and access to user data, two US senators demanded investigation of the sale of the social media site in 2022.