08/22/2018, 10.43
SAUDI ARABIA
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For first time Riyadh could sentence woman activist to death

The prosecution calls for the death penalty for Israa al-Ghomgham, a 29-year-old Shiite, and four other activists. They are accused of having manifested in the eastern provinces. Israa risks becoming a dangerous precedent, in the context of the crackdown in the realm against activists. HRW: the "fairy tale" of Saudi reforms.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) - For the first time, a Saudi woman is in danger of being condemned to death for political reasons: the Saudi public prosecutor has asked capital punishment for five activists in the eastern provinces of the country, including Shiite Israa al-Ghomgham ( see photo). The international NGO Human Rights Watch (Hrw) sounded the alarm yesterday.

The activists face charges such as "participation in protests in the Qatif region", "incitement to protest" and "moral support for the rebels". The trial is underway in the Special Criminal Court (SCC) of the country, established in 2008 to deal with cases of terrorism, but increasingly involved in judicial proceedings against peaceful dissidents. The SCC is accused of violating the minimum fairness standards of trials, and in the past has sentenced Shiite activists to death with politically motivated sentences.

"Every execution is deplorable, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who is not even accused of violent behavior, is monstrous," condemns Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW for the Middle East. For Whitson, the Saudi "unbridled despotism" makes it difficult to support the "fairy tale of 'reforms'" claimed by the Saudi authorities.

Al-Ghomgham, 29, was arrested in 2015 for participating in and documenting mass demonstrations in early 2011, during which the Shiite minority called for an end to the systematic discrimination in the Wahhabi kingdom. She would be the first woman to be sentenced to death because of her commitment to human rights. A dangerous precedent, in the context of Riyadh's recent crackdown on activists.

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