By Salman Ahmed | Published Aug 25, 2022 | 4:55 pm
A Saudi court has sentenced the former Imam of the Makkah’s Grand Mosque, Sheikh Saleh al Talib, to 10 years in jail.
The Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, sentenced the former Imam to 10 years in prison after reversing his previous acquittal, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a US-based rights group, revealed on Monday.
According to reports by various rights groups, Sheikh Saleh was taken into custody by the Saudi authorities without citing any reason in 2018 after he had delivered a sermon criticizing the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), a Saudi organization that regulates the entertainment industry.
Note here that Talib has a global audience that watches and listens to his sermons and Quranic recitations on YouTube. He disapproved of the growing concerts and festivities in the Kingdom, which are against the country’s religious and cultural traditions.
His detention came amid Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman’s (MBS) reformation drive of the Saudi society and the diversification of the Kingdom’s oil-dependent economy.
Ever since MBS assumed de facto power as the Crown Prince, the Saudi authorities have detained various renowned clerics and imams, who are critical of his reform policies, the rights groups claim. Among those detainees is Salman al-Odah, who called for Saudis to settle their disputes with Qataris following Riyadh’s region-wide blockade of the Gulf country.
The DAWN’s spokesperson, Abdullah Alaoudh, denounced the verdict and said that it was part of the increasing trend of clerics and imams facing imprisonment for criticizing MBS’s reforms.
Alaoud, son of Salman al-Odah, stated, “The sentencing of the Grand Mosque’s Imam Saleh Al Talib to 10 years for criticizing social changes and the sentencing of women activist Salma al-Shehab to 34 years for calling for real social reforms is a stark irony that tells us that MBS’s oppression threatens every group”.
He added, “What is in common between all political prisoners including Imam Al Talib is that they peacefully expressed their opinions and got arrested for it. This repression should stop against everyone with no exceptions”.
One of the recent critics, Salma al-Shehab, a Ph.D. student, was sentenced to 34 years of imprisonment for her tweets that lambasted the Saudi government.