Saudi Arabia: Moderate Islamic scholars 'to be executed'

22 May 2019, 11:51 | Updated: 22 May 2019, 22:50

Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to execute three moderate Islamic scholars despite the international outrage that followed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Sheikh Salman al Odah, a Muslim preacher with a 14 million strong social media following, will be killed after the holy month of Ramadan say reports.

Sunni preacher and academic Awad al-Qarni and broadcaster Ali al-Omari, will also be executed say sources quoted in MiddleEastEye.net.

Amnesty International says more than 100 people have been executed this year, some beheaded and some crucified, including some younger than 18 when they were arrested.

Many of them have been Shia Muslims. The three named as next in line for execution are all Sunni.

Under de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman the Saudi regime has been even less tolerant of dissent than before.

Several women driving activists remain in jail even though the government has now ended the ban on women being behind the wheel.

Their relatives say they have been abused and subjected to threats of torture and rape.

The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul caused international outrage last year and led to intense pressure on the country's leadership.

The CIA and other observers believe it was carried out on orders from Mohammed bin Salman.

In an interview with Sky News shortly before his death, Mr Khashoggi expressed intense concern about the arrest of the three now facing execution, pointing out they were supporters of the kind of reforms their government claimed to be implementing.

The UK has defended maintaining close ties with the Saudi regime. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has visited the country several times since the Khashoggi murder.

The Foreign Office would not comment on these latest reports but stressed the UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and frequently raises its concerns on this and other human rights issues with the Saudis.

If these latest reports are true, the UK's concerns are not being heard in Riyadh. The Saudi leadership appears undeterred and determined to continue its policy of zero tolerance of dissent with lethal effect.