Saudi prosecutors seek death penalty for woman activist

A Saudi Arabian executioner shows off his sword

A Saudi Arabian executioner shows off his sword

A Saudi woman may face the death penalty for her political activities, a rights group said Tuesday, in what is thought to be the first such instance of a female activist in the kingdom to face the death penalty.

HRW said Ms Ghomgham was an activist well known for participating in and documenting the mass protests that have taken place in Qatif since 2011.

The advocacy group said prosecutors detained the activists on unrecognizable charges for crimes like protesting, chanting hostile slogans to the regime, trying to inflame public opinion, providing moral support to other rioters and filming protests and posting to social media.

Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor has reportedly sought the death penalty for five activists, including the female rights defender Israa al-Ghomgham.

They have been held for more than two years and are scheduled for a court date October 28.

"For the second time this month, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday rebuked Saudi Arabia, saying Canada is extremely concerned by the arrests of women's rights activists".

Saudi Arabia ordered August 6 the suspension of new trade and investment with Canada, after the country's foreign minister urged Riyadh to release detained civil rights activists.

The Saudi government has so far not commented on Ms Al-Ghomgham's trial.

"Israa al-Ghomgham and four other individuals are now facing the most appalling possible punishment simply for their involvement in anti-government protests", said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East director of campaigns. Nasrallah strongly condemned Saudi Arabia for executing prominent Saudi opposition Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr at the event.

The statement did not call specifically for al-Ghomgham's immediate release, unlike in earlier statements where Canada named prisoners it wants freed.

For Saudi trading partners who care about human rights, this should not be a hard issue on which to take a stand.

Saudi officials are seeking the death penalty against five activists in the kingdom's Eastern Province. Prominent women's rights advocate Hatoon al-Fassi was arrested in June as she was planning to take journalists in her vehicle to celebrate the much-hyped end of the world's last ban on female drivers. If it is comparatively easy for the Saudis to lash out at Canada, a relatively small trading partner, they might be given more pause if criticism came from countries on which they are more reliant - not least the United States, which under Donald Trump has fostered a relationship cozier than ever.

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