"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Saudi Arabia warns Twitter and Facebook 'rumour-mongers' they risk the death penalty

Public beheading in Saudi Arabia
Public beheading in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has threatened to execute those who 'spread rumours' about the government on social media, a state-run website has reported.

It is the first time the Gulf nation, which has come under fire for issuing death penalties to protesters, has created a rule to punish ordinary people for what they say on Twitter and Facebook, human rights campaigners Reprieve told MailOnline.

There are already laws and departments to censor mass media in the country, which is known to crush dissidence with capital punishment.

Only the worst 'rumour-mongers' will be executed, while lesser offenders will be punished with lashes, imprisonment, travel bans, house arrest and a social media ban, a Ministry of Justice source is quoted to have said.

In an interview with the Saudi-based Makkah Online website, which was translated for MailOnline by Reprieve, the anonymous source said social media websites 'set the common view alight' and 'cause confusion in societies'.

They said a senior judge would be in charge of sentencing but the kind of post which would warrant a death sentence was not made clear - and there is no precedent because the rule is brand new.

MailOnline has not been able to independently verify these claims.

The director of Reprieve's death penalty team, Maya Foa said the new law is a way for the government to control a young, tech-savvy population.

She said: 'This looks like yet another heavy-handed attempt to crush dissent in Saudi Arabia, especially among the young.'

This disturbing development comes just weeks after a Saudi prince, who chose not to disclose his real name, revealed that a vicious power struggle was taking place at the very top of the Kingdom.

In two letters published by the Guardian, he said the royal family, tribal leaders and the general population opposed the reign of current ruler King Salman, 79, and the ascension of his son Mohammed bin Salman, 30, to the throne.

The prince, who is believed to be one of the grandsons of the state's founder, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, said: 'They [opponents] say you have to do this [abdicate] or the country will go to disaster.'

Saudi Arabia has recently been criticised for its 'mismanagement' of Mecca, where a stampede killed 1,000 during the Hajj pilgrimage last month.

It also drew widespread condemnation last week, when a Saudi-led coalition which has been carrying out airstrikes on Shi'ite rebels in Yemen since March struck a wedding party and killed 28.

There is no established law in Saudi Arabia which censors people's personal posts online, but several departments and rules exist to censor news websites.

The Kingdom's 'Basic Law of Governance' states: 'Mass media and all other vehicles of expression shall employ civil and polite language, contribute towards the education of the nation and strengthen unity.

'It is prohibited to commit acts leading to disorder and division, affecting the security of the state and its public relations, or undermining human dignity and rights.

The country's Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) regulates the internet and blocks thousands of websites which feature pornography or anti-government content, Reporters Without Borders have claimed.


Source: Mail Online, October 5, 2015


Saudi Government threatens death penalty for tweeting - reports

"Crucifixion" of beheaded bodies in KSA
"Crucifixion" of beheaded bodies in KSA
The Saudi Arabian Government has warned that people could face execution for tweeting “rumours,” according to the state-backed Makkah Newspaper.

In an article published online on October 3rd, the paper said that a “judicial source” at the country’s Ministry of Justice had “confirmed to Makkah Online that the death penalty is the harshest of the penalties that can be enacted upon those who spread rumours which create civil discord, via social media platforms like Twitter.”

Although the report does not use a named source, the nature of state-censorship in the Kingdom makes it unlikely that such claims would be made without the consent of the authorities. In addition, the Makkah Newspaper appears to enjoy government support – according to local news reports, it was launched last year by the Governor of Mecca, in the presence of the Minister for Culture and Information. 

The report, translated by human rights charity Reprieve, appears to be the first time that the Saudi authorities have specifically threatened to use the death penalty for ‘offences’ committed on social media such as Twitter.

It comes in the wake of the news that Saudi Arabia plans to execute two people arrested as children: Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was arrested aged 17 for alleged involvement in anti-Government protests and faces beheading and ‘crucifixion’; and Dawoud al-Marhoon, who was arrested aged 17, also following protests, and faces beheading. Both have had their final appeals rejected and could face execution at any time.

The UK Government has faced criticism over a bid to provide services to the Saudi prison system – which will be responsible for Ali’s and Dawoud’s executions. Despite calls from Members of Parliament and NGOs to drop the bid, it has continued to pursue it.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights charity Reprieve said: “Two weeks ago we heard of the Saudi government’s plans to ‘crucify’ Ali al Nimr for attending a protest when he was 17; now it appears they’re threatening social media users with the death penalty. The Kingdom is executing people at double the rate of last year, with many of those facing the swordsman’s blade sentenced to death for drug offences, attending protests or exercising their right to free speech. It is unthinkable that people could face a death sentence for a simple tweet, yet so far, neither the UK nor the US – both key allies of Saudi Arabia – have taken a strong line against this appalling behaviour. Instead, the British Government is bidding to supply services to Saudi prison authorities – those who will be responsible for carrying out the execution of Ali and scores of others like him.”
  1. The Makkah online story can be found here, in Arabic only. The launch of Makkah newspaper was reported by Arab News on 13 January, 2014.
  2. Further information on the UK’s bid to provide prisons services to Saudi Arabia can be found on Reprieve’s website.
Source: Reprieve, October 6, 2015

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