Repression in Saudi Arabia has reached a new level


SAUDI dissidents who fled abroad to escape repression at home are looking over their shoulders. On October 2nd Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and government critic (pictured), went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to file paperwork for a new marriage.

His fiancée is still waiting for him to return. Turkish customs officials are scouring the ports with his photograph, fearing the Saudis have kidnapped him.

Since Muhammad bin Salman became crown prince of Saudi Arabia last year, thousands of dissidents have been jailed, often for offences as slight as failing to tweet royal talking points. The geographical scope of the repression is also expanding. Last month a Saudi satirist in London claimed he was beaten by thugs from the Saudi embassy.

Some of the repression has come in the service of reform. Prince Muhammad has reined in spendthrift princes and neutered the religious police, who enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Now Saudi Arabia has pop concerts, cinemas and female drivers. “One word from these sheikhs could cause lots of problems,” says a Saudi official. “Sometimes you have to balance the individual good against the good of society.”

But rather than court support, Prince Muhammad is ruling by fear. For all his promises of due process, most political prisoners are held indefinitely without trial. They are the lucky ones. Essam al-Zamil, an economist, was reportedly charged with terrorism after questioning the proposed sale of part of the national oil company, which has since been postponed. The public prosecutor has called for Israa al-Ghomgham, a champion of women’s rights, to be executed. He wants Salman al-Awdah, once the country’s most popular preacher on television, to be killed too. Some whisper that Prince Muhammad has launched an inquisition.  (The Economist)

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