Saudi Arabia has sentenced three members of the Al-Huwaiti tribe to death for resisting their eviction for the development of the $500 billion megaproject known as NEOM. Riyadh announced last week that the same site will be used to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games.
The three men — Shadli, Atallah and Ibrahim Al-Huwaiti — were arrested in 2020 for refusing to give up their home for the project. Shadli Al-Huwaiti is the brother of Abdul Rahim Al-Huwaiti, a 43-year-old Tabuk resident who was shot dead by Saudi Special Forces in April 2020 for protesting against Riyadh's eviction orders.
Since their eviction the tribe has appealed to the United Nations for help in preserving their presence on their ancestral lands. Six months after the killing of Abdul Rahman, Al-Huwaitat tribal leaders called on the international organisation to investigate the Saudi authorities' forceful displacement and abuse of tribal members.
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The UK-based rights group Alqst reported the death sentences handed to the three members of the tribe on twitter: "On 2 October, the SCC [Specialised Criminal Court] sentenced Shadli (brother of Abdul Rahim Al-Hwaiti), Ataullah and Ibrahim Saleh Al-Hwaiti to death. We condemn the sentences and call for their release."
The SCC was created in 2008 to try terrorist suspects. However, in recent years it has become notorious for rubber-stamping a crackdown against human rights activists and critics of the Saudi regime. Saudi Arabia, like its key regional allies Egypt and the UAE, has been accused of weaponising the definition of terrorism, especially since the popular Arab uprising in 2011, to include political opponents and democracy campaigners. Western governments turn a blind eye to such anti-democratic moves.
Two other Al-Huwaiti tribe members — Abdulilah Al-Huwaiti and Abdullah Dukhail Al-Huwaiti — were given 50-year prison terms and 50-year travel bans in August for supporting their family's refusal to be evicted from their homes. Others have also received lengthy prison sentences.
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