By Muslim Mirror Desk
A Saudi court has sentenced a prominent former imam of Makkah’s Masjid al Haram to ten years in prison.
The Specialised Criminal Appeals Court in Riyadh sentenced Sheikh Saleh al Talib to prison on Monday, reversing a prior acquittal, according to the US-based rights organisation Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn).
According to activists, Saudi officials first held 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 that he claimed violated the country’s religious and cultural standards.
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.
“The sentencing of the Grand Mosque’s Imam Saleh Al Talib to 10 years for criticizing social changes and the sentencing of women activist Salma Alshehab to 34 years for calling for real social reforms is a stark irony that tells us that MbS’s oppression threatens every group,” said Alaoudh.
“What is in common between all political prisoners including Imam Al Talib is that they peacefully expressed their opinions and got arrested for it. This repression should stop against everyone [with] no exceptions.”
His detention comes as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pursues ‘reforms’ in Saudi society and ‘diversification’ of 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.
Among those jailed is Salman al-Odah, who called for Saudis to settle their disputes with Qataris following Riyadh’s region-wide ban of the Gulf country.
Other recent arrests include PhD student Salma al-Shehab, who was sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweets critical of the Saudi government.