In a First, Saudis May Behead Female Human-Rights Activist

Canada continues to push back
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2018 9:50 AM CDT
Fearing an Execution, Canada Keeps Pushing Saudi Arabia
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland speaks in Washington on June 13, 2018.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

In the midst of a fight with Canada over female human-rights activists, Saudi Arabia plans to behead one. The country's public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against five activists, including Israa al-Ghomgham of the Shia Muslim minority, who documented mass protests in the Eastern Province beginning in 2011, the Guardian reports via Human Rights Watch. Reportedly charged with "incitement to protest," "chanting slogans hostile to the regime," and "attempting to inflame public opinion," among other charges, per the Globe and Mail, Ghomgham—whose husband also faces death—could become the first woman to be executed for human rights-related activism in Saudi Arabia. Newsweek reports a judge will decide on the death penalty during an Oct. 28 court date.

"Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists ... who are not even accused of violent behavior is monstrous," HRW's Middle East director says, adding "the Saudi monarchy's unrestrained despotism makes it harder for its public relations teams to spin the fairy tale of 'reform.'" Meanwhile, Canada is repeating its concerns over the arrests of women's rights activists, per the Globe and Mail. "These concerns have been raised with the Saudi government. Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women's rights and freedom of expression around the world," reads a statement from the office of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, whose tweet sparked the dispute between the countries. (The US refused to back Canada.)

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