16 January 2023 :
A prominent law professor in Saudi Arabia is facing the death penalty for alleged crimes including having a Twitter account and using WhatsApp to share news considered “hostile” to the kingdom, according to court documents seen by the Guardian.
The arrest of Awad Al-Qarni, 65, in September 2017 represented the start of a crackdown against dissent by the then newly named crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
Details of the charges brought against Al-Qarni have now been shared with the Guardian by his son Nasser, who last year fled the kingdom and is living in the UK, where he has said he is seeking asylum protection. Public prosecutors have called for the death penalty in the case, but the court has yet to make a formal judgement.
Al-Qarni has been portrayed in Saudi-controlled media as a dangerous preacher, but dissidents have said Al-Qarni was an important and well-regarded intellectual with a strong social media following, including 2m Twitter followers.
A translation of the charges against Al-Qarni include the law professor’s “admission” that he used a social media account under his own name (@awadalqarni) and used it “at every opportunity … to express his opinions”.
The documents also state that he “admitted” participating in a WhatsApp chat and was accused of participating in videos in which he praised the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Qarni’s apparent use of Telegram, and creation of a Telegram account, was also included in allegations.