Saudi Arabia sentences brother of British dissident to death on treason charges

Saudi Arabia has sentenced to death the brother of a dissident exiled in the United Kingdom on charges of treason.

Mohammed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi, a 54-year-old retired teacher, was sentenced in July over comments he made on an anonymous X (formerly Twitter) account, which had only eight followers.

The charges were also based upon an alleged confession obtained by the Saudi Arabian authorities after Mr al-Ghamdi was arrested in which he described the king and crown prince as “tyrants” and “agents of the West” who were fighting against Islam, according to court documents seen by the New York Times.

Mr al-Ghamdi’s brother, Saeed, suggested the sentence handed down to his brother was disproportionate to the accusations made against him.

He told the NYT that he believed the sentencing was intended to “spite or harm or try to disturb me with this case”.

Under the de facto rule of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), efforts to crack down on dissent against the Islamic regime have escalated.

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Saeed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi, a conservative Muslim cleric and vocal dissident, currently lives in exile in Britain.

He said the authorities seemed to be using his younger brother to punish him.

“The posts that my brother wrote, no one knew about, and they didn’t spread — no one saw them even,” Saeed al-Ghamdi said.

“It appears to me they wanted to spite or harm or try to disturb me with this case.”

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The case is the latest in a larger crackdown on dissent that has deepened under MBS, 38, who is second in line to the throne behind his father King Salman, who assumed his reign over the kingdom in 2015.

Over the past eight years, MBS has carried out an aggressive campaign to end ultraconservative Islamic laws that many Saudis found suffocating.

He has also overseen plans to diversify its oil-dependent economy and make the lives of women less restricted.

But, at the same time, he has cracked down on instances of dissent on social media, including X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and Snapchat, all of which are frequently used by a national population that is overwhelmingly under the age of 35 (75 percent).

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