What happened:

The Specialised Criminal Appeals Court in Riyadh condemned Sheikh Saleh al Talib to prison on Aug 24, reversing a prior acquittal, according to the US-based rights organisation Democracy for the Arab World Now.

Back story:

According to activists, Saudi officials first detained Talib in 2018 and cited no cause for his arrest, which occurred after he delivered a sermon criticising the General Entertainment Authority, a government agency in charge of regulating the entertainment industry. He denounced concerts and events as he claimed that they are violating the country’s religious and cultural standards.

Why was he arrested:

His detention comes as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues to ‘reform’ Saudi society and diversify the Gulf kingdom’s oil-dependent economy. According to rights groups, authorities have imprisoned hundreds of renowned clergy and imams who are critical of MBS’s reform agenda since he seized de facto control as crown prince.

Why it matters:

On Twitter, Dawn, an organisation created by the late journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirmed Talib’s court sentence.

A spokesperson for Dawn, Abdullah Alaoudh, denounced the prison sentence, saying it was part of an increasing trend of clerics and imams facing imprisonment for speaking out against reforms advocated by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


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