10/20/2021, 09.53
SAUDI ARABIA
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Riyadh, dissident cleric dies in prison from torture

The victim is 66-year-old intellectual Musa al-Qarni, who died as a result of serious injuries. He received beatings to the face and head with sharp objects, which resulted in fractures to the skull. He had suffered a heart attack in 2018, but had not received adequate treatment. Prison authorities had branded him mentally ill. 

Riyadh (AsiaNews) - Musa al-Qarni, a dissident scholar and Saudi religious leader, has died as a result of serious injuries sustained during torture in prison. A group of human rights associations report he suffered beatings, violence and heavy mistreatment in the country's prisons. The death of the 66-year-old dates back to October 12, while he was in the cell despite progressively deteriorating health conditions for the 15-year sentence imposed by the authorities. 

According to reports by Alqst, an independent NGO that promotes human rights in the Wahhabi kingdom, Qarni suffered violent beatings to the face and head with sharp objects, which caused numerous injuries including fractures to the skull that caused his death. The report cites numerous testimonies from people who, on condition of anonymity, confirm that they saw the religious leader being tortured in his cell. 

“We call for an urgent independent investigation into this crime, both to ensure that those responsible are punished and to protect other prisoners of conscience from any repetition of this tragedy,” the organisation said. According to Alqst, Qarni (pictured) had suffered a heart attack in May 2018 and received the wrong treatment from the prison's medical staff, only to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital in an attempt to paint him as mentally ill.  

The dissident scholar had been arrested in 2007 and sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2011 during a maxi-trial against the "Jeddah Reformists." The group, dissolved in 2007 at the hands of the judiciary with arrests and judicial sentences, had been accused of wanting to overthrow the Saudi government.

In 2012 the members had received conditional freedom or a royal pardon, after signing a letter in which they apologized and thanked for the act of clemency. However, six elements of the group declined the proposal, while the prosecutor revived the request for a death sentence for the offenders. 

In spite of the reforms promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs) who through the economy tries to erase a past - still current - of extremism, sharia and death penalty, the Saudi kingdom is still at the top of the list of nations that violate human rights.

Riyadh continues to imprison activists, pacifists, intellectuals and uses the death penalty with beheading for crimes ranging from drug dealing to homosexuality. Bin Salman himself, while advocating greater openings to the economy and tourism, has stepped up his crackdown on domestic political dissent and peaceful activism.

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