Mohammad Alghamdi, a former teacher, has received a death sentence in Saudi Arabia for expressing criticism of the country’s rulers, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), on social media. This case highlights a concerning escalation in Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on online freedom of speech, even when individuals have a limited online following.
Alghamdi, in his mid-50s and a father of seven, had only about 8 followers across two anonymous accounts on the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter). Despite his small audience, he used his platform to share posts critical of government corruption and other issues.
The social media platform X has become a space for Saudis to voice their grievances against the government, often while concealing their identities.
Lina Alhathloul, a prominent figure in the ALQST human rights group, noted that X was one of the few places where people felt they could express themselves freely, even if they needed to remain anonymous.
What sets Alghamdi’s case apart is the severity of his sentence relative to his limited online influence. He has the option to appeal the death sentence.
Court documents, reviewed by human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, revealed that Alghamdi has sentenced on July 10th under the country’s loosely defined counterterrorism law. The charges against him included insulting the Saudi king or crown prince and promoting terrorist ideas.
The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, typically handling terrorism cases, convicted him. However, multiple reports suggest that this court has increasingly used to silence government critics.
Prosecutors in these cases often argue that any form of Social Media Criticism against Saudi leadership threatens national security and social stability. It’s important to note that many of these cases conducted in secret.”