Posting on Facebook, protesting, and going to a funeral: This is why Saudi sentenced a female activist to death for the first time

  • Saudi Arabia is on the cusp of executing a woman for political activism for the first time.
  • Israa al Ghomgham was sentenced to death for posting on Facebook and going to a fellow protester’s funeral, according to court documents secured by two human rights groups.
  • The most usual method is beheading with a sword.
  • Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia remains locked in a diplomatic feud with Canada, which began earlier this month.
  • The feud has seen the Arab kingdom and its allies criticise Canada for various issues, including women’s rights.

Posting on Facebook, protesting, and going to a funeral are among the reasons why Saudi Arabia is set to execute a female activist for the first time, court documents obtained by international human rights groups have revealed.

Israa al Ghomgham, 29, was charged with breaking two laws, which has led to her death sentence, according to court records obtained by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Wednesday.

The news of her death sentence came as Saudi Arabia criticised Canada for its record on women’s rights, which has seen the kingdom cancel flights, recall students, and cut investment to Canada.

There is no confirmed execution date for al Ghomgham so far. The method of her death sentence is also not yet clear, but the most common method used in the kingdom is beheading by sword.

Here’s al Ghomgham’s charge list, according to the court documents:

  • Violating Royal Decree 44/A for “participating in protests in al Qatif and documenting these protests on social media.”
  • “Providing moral support to rioters by participating in funerals of protesters killed during clashes with security forces.”
  • “Committing forgery by using the passport photo of another woman on her Facebook account.”
  • “Violating Article 6 of the Anti-Cyber Crime law” through, among other things, advocating for protests and posting photos and videos of protests on Facebook.

Al Ghomgham has been subjected to multiple rounds of sentencing. Her first one on August 6 took place alongside five more people, including her husband, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. All six of them were recommended the death sentence.

According to Human Rights Watch, the judge had invoked the Islamic law of “ta’zirn” in his recommendation – his personal discretion of the definition of what constitutes a crime and the sentence it deserves.

Al Ghomgham will also face another sentencing review on October 28, although its purpose is not clear. It’s also not clear whether the five other people facing the death penalty will also have a sentencing review.

All executions in Saudi Arabia require authorization from the country’s ruler, King Salman, according to the Independent. It is not clear whether he has authorised al Ghomgham’s death. It is also not clear whether this will be addressed in her sentencing review.

Al Ghomgham has been imprisoned since she was arrested alongside her husband in December 2015, Reuters reported. She is currently being held in the al Mabahith prison in Dammam, eastern Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International said in a press release.

Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East director of campaigns, said in a statement: “The charges against Israa al-Ghomgham are absurd and clearly politically motivated to silence dissent in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.”

Canada saudi arabia Trudeau vs bin SalmanGetty Images/Business InsiderCanadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vs Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The death sentence came during a diplomatic feud with Canada

Saudi Arabia and Canada have been engaged in a diplomatic feud for weeks.

Earlier this month Canada’s foreign ministry tweeted that it was “gravely concerned” about the arrests of several women’s rights activists, including Samar Badawi, the sister of a Canadian citizens.

In response, Saudi Arabia cancelled flights, recalled students, and cut investment to Canada.

Earlier this month the country also called Canada one of the world’s worst oppressors of women in one bizarre crusade, in which it highlighted the disappearance of 1,000 indigenous women over the past hundred years, without mentioning steps taken in recent years to mitigate the problem.

In Canada, women have full legal rights to seek employment, access abortion services, and express their gender identities as they see fit. Women in Saudi Arabia have to get permission to marry, get a job, or travel abroad.

Canada also does not have a death penalty.

Business Insider has contacted Saudi Arabia’s information ministry for comment on al Ghomgham’s case.

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