The aggressive manner with which Saudi Arabia pursues its critics came to light with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year in Istanbul. It was hoped that the global backlash against the grisly killing of the 60-year-old would force the kingdom to temper its hostility towards activists calling for political reform within the country. There is little to suggest that this is the case.
The latest instance of the threat and intimidation directed at critics of the Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, concerns the son of jailed cleric Salman Al-Ouda. The prominent preacher is facing execution for charges connected to terrorism. An international campaign led by Amnesty is calling for his release while raising concerns over Riyadh’s ever-expanding and ambiguous anti-terror laws that target human rights activists.
Following his arrest in 2017, Al-Ouda’s family have been subjected to an ongoing campaign, which suggests that the crown prince, known colloquially as MBS, has not relented in his pursuit of critics. Speaking to American news channel PBS. Abdullah Al-Ouda said that the Saudi government has been sending him daily threats and warnings that he would be out in prison next to his father.
US based Al-Ouda, who has been campaigning for his father’s release and exposing arbitrary arrests and torture within the kingdom, also revealed that the threatening messages he received included warning that his human rights activism would influence the way Saudi officials behaved with his detained father. “I continue to receive daily threats of imprisonment next to my father, by accounts (Twitter) linked to the Saudi government,” he went on say.
The Al-Ouda family appear to be closely monitored by Riyadh. In October Saudi officials arrested Abdel-Aziz Al-Ouda because of a tweet in support of Palestine.
It also looks like that the Saudis have a large and sophisticated army of Twitter users targeting critics. Last week two former Twitter employees were charged by US courts of spying for Saudi Arabia. One of the critics targeted by the alleged Saudi spies was a close friend of Khashoggi.
Since his appointment as the crown prince, MBS has launched a wave of arrests. Officials, princes, preachers, political opponents and even liberal activists critical of his authoritarian rule, have not been spared from arrest and detention.