- Saudi Arabia seems to be on the cusp of executing a woman for political activism for the first time.
- Israa al-Ghomgham has been sentenced to death and is awaiting execution, sources tell Business Insider. The most usual method is beheading with a sword.
- Saudi Arabia remains locked in a diplomatic spat with Canada that began earlier this month.
- It has seen the Saudi state and its allies attempt to take a moral high ground on numerous issues, including women’s rights.
- Canada does not have a death penalty.
Saudi Arabia, which in recent weeks has called out Canada over its treatment of women, is on the cusp of executing a female political activist for the first time.
The kingdom gave a death sentence to Israa al-Ghomgham, a prominent Saudi campaigner, at a hearing earlier in August, two human-rights groups have told Business Insider.
She was convicted at a recent hearing, representatives for Amnesty International and the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights said.
The timing suggests the sentence was delivered at about the same time that Saudi Arabia and its media began a public dispute against Canada, prompted by criticism of how Saudi prisoners are treated, that has led Saudi representatives to try to paint the Canadians as oppressors of women.
Al-Ghomgham is most likely facing execution with a sword, Saudi Arabia’s preferred method for administering the death penalty. Saudi Arabia has executed women before, but not for political activism.
She does not have an exact date for her execution, which still requires authorization by King Salman, the Saudi ruler. It is unlikely to come before a sentencing review on October 28. She has been detained since December 2015.
Some sources on social media indicated on Tuesday that she had already been killed, but no evidence of this has been made public.
“As far as we are aware Israa al-Ghomgham has not been executed yet,” Laurie Hanna, an Amnesty reporter, said on Tuesday.
Hanna said al-Ghomgham was still awaiting her death sentence from the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.
Al-Ghomgham’s activism centres on demands for an end to discrimination against Shia Muslims and a release of political prisoners, according to The Middle East Eye, an outlet that Saudi Arabia accuses of having links to its regional rival Qatar.
In the below image al-Ghomgham, top left, as a child, is part of a group of five people sentenced to death in August, including her husband, Moussa al-Hashem, middle bottom.
This Saudi woman has been provisionally sentenced to death for participating in anti-government protests https://t.co/JGioHZy4Yc
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) August 21, 2018
Al-Ghomgham was arrested during a house raid and had been a prominent protester in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia since 2011, The Middle East Eye reported.
The pending execution became public two weeks after Saudi state media slammed Canada’s women’s-rights record in response to a tweet from the Canadian Foreign Ministry demanding the release of Canadians imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.
Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.
— Foreign Policy CAN (@CanadaFP) August 3, 2018
The Saudi press pointed out the disappearance of 1,000 indigenous women over the past hundred years in Canada, in an unusual media barrage that seemed designed to undermine Canada’s moral standing.
Saudi Arabia also instructed all its citizens studying an Canadian universities to leave, canceled flights between the two countries, and suspended new trade and investment.
Nearly 150 people were put to death in Saudi Arabia last year, Amnesty International said. Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976.
Business Insider has contacted Saudi Arabia’s information ministry for comment but has yet to receive a response.
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