Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has called for a popular cleric to be sentenced to death, a Saudi rights lawyer told Middle East Eye on Wednesday.
Ali al-Omari, 45, is a famous Saudi public figure and cleric whose TV shows have called for more rights for women and campaigned against violent extremism. His TV and social media appearances, particularly on Snapchat, have gained him a large following among young Muslims across the Arab world.
Omari is also the chairman of the Mecca Open University, and a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars – which has been labelled a terrorist organisation by Saudi Arabia.
According to a Saudi lawyer in touch with Omari’s family, the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh held a secret session for Omari on Wednesday. The public prosecutor brought more than 30 charges against him, and recommended the death penalty. One of the charges is “forming a youth organisation to carry out the objectives of a terrorist group inside the Kingdom”.
Executions, most commonly beheadings, usually take place in Saudi Arabia after the decision is ratified by the king – in this case, King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
The date of a final verdict has not yet been announced, due to the secretive nature of the trial.
On Tuesday, the prosecutor sought the death penalty against another Saudi cleric, Salman al-Odah, who was arrested in September 2017 in a crackdown that targeted more than 20 Sunni clerics, along with feminist and business figures.
Saudi Arabia remains “one of the most prolific executioners in the world”, beheading at least 100 people in 2017 alone, according to Amnesty International.
There are currently at least 58 people on death row in Saudi Arabia, most of them from the Shia minority, according to the latest tally by the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights.