Saudi Arabia seeks to execute first woman, 4 others

Life isn’t a barrel of laughs for women in Saudi Arabia. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Life isn’t a barrel of laughs for women in Saudi Arabia. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The situation is particularly bad for Shiite Muslims, who are vastly outnumbered by Sunnis in Saudi Arabia.

She is described as an activist well-known for participating in and documenting mass demonstrations against discrimination faced by the Shia minority in the country.

Ghomgham and her husband, Moussa al-Hashem, were arrested in December 2015 for organizing anti-government protests following the Arab Spring.

For the first time, Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in a case against a female human rights activist, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday. She and five others have been charged with things like "attempting to inflame public opinion", "filming protests and publishing on social media" and "providing moral support to rioters", HRW said in a statement.

"Israa al-Ghomgham and four other individuals are now facing the most appalling possible punishment simply for their involvement in anti-government protests", said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East director of campaigns.

Canada responded to news that Saudi Arabia is on the cusp of executing a female rights activist for the first time.

"These concerns have been raised with the Saudi government", spokesman Adam Austen said.

Al-Ghomgham's case is the latest human rights related detention in Saudi Arabia to catch the attention of the Liberal government after Freeland called for the release of Samar Badawi in early August.

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The European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights and ALQST, a London-based Saudi human rights group, have called on the authorities to drop the charges against Ms Ghomgham.

Israa al-Ghomgham and four other human rights activists are now on trial in Saudi Arabia's terrorism tribunal, according to the nonprofit organization Human Rights Watch.

They are due to appear in court again on October 28, according to HRW.

In September 2017, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud signed a royal degree lifting the ban on women driving and greater participation in the public sphere was opened up to women.

If al-Ghomgham is executed, she would be the first female activist killed by the government, and advocates say it could set a risky precedent for others in jail. "Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women's rights and freedom of expression around the world".

According to HRW, under the recent crackdown at least 13 women have been arrested under the pretext of maintaining national security.

While women are now allowed to drive and the shrill tenor of the state's religious police has been toned, the country still has a long way to go, the United Nations said in a report.

"Every day, the Saudi monarchy's unrestrained despotism makes it harder for its public relations teams to spin the fairy tale of "reform" to allies and global business", said Whitson.

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