Saudi Arab

Prominent Saudi dissident cleric goes nearly blind, deaf in detention: Son

The son of prominent Saudi dissident Sheikh Salman al-Ouda says his father has virtually gone blind and deaf in prison, as a brutal crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against pro-democracy campaigners, Muslim preachers and intellectuals continues unabated in the kingdom.

The rights group Prisoners of Conscience, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page on Thursday that the imprisoned scholar has almost lost his hearing and eyesight, citing the 63-year-old cleric’s son, Abdullah al-Awdah.

He called on international human rights bodies concerned with the conditions of detainees in Saudi Arabia to secure the immediate release of his father, stressing that the cleric, who has been in solitary confinement for more than three years, has been subjected to torture, pressure and denial of treatment.

The Arabic-language Saudi newspaper Okaz reported on September 4, 2018 that Saudi public prosecutors had leveled 37 counts against Ouda, and even demanded his execution.

Saudi authorities detained the prominent Muslim scholar on September 7, 2018 and have been holding him in solitary confinement without charge or trial ever since. Officials have imposed travel bans on members of his family as well.

A family member told Human Rights Watch that the distinguished cleric was being held over his refusal to comply with an order by Saudi authorities to tweet a specific text to support the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

Ouda, instead, posted a tweet, saying, “May God harmonize between their hearts for the good of their people,” – an apparent call for reconciliation between the Persian Gulf littoral states, the US-based rights group said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt all cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5 2017, after officially accusing Doha of “sponsoring terrorism.”

Qatar said the move was unjustified and based on false claims and assumptions.

Ever since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

Muslim scholars have been executed, women’s rights campaigners – including Loujain al-Hathloul – have been put behind bars and tortured, and freedom of expression, association and belief continue to be denied.

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