Former Imam of Masjid al-Haram Sheikh Saleh al Talib Jailed For 10 Years

Rights groups claim that Sheikh Saleh al Talib was arrested without explanation in August 2018

The Grand Mosque in Makkah’s former imam has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by a Saudi court.

According to the US-based rights group Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn), the Specialized Criminal Appeals Court in Riyadh sentenced Sheikh Saleh al Talib to prison after overturning his previous acquittal.

According to activists, Saudi authorities first detained Talib in 2018 without providing a reason for the arrest, which occurred after he delivered a sermon criticizing the General Entertainment Authority, a government body that regulates the entertainment industry.

In his opinion, concerts and events that violate the country’s religious and cultural norms should be condemned. 

There are thousands of people around the world who watch Talib’s sermons and Quran recitations on YouTube.

He was arrested when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continued to reform Saudi society and diversify the economy of the Gulf kingdom, which is heavily reliant on oil.

As a result of MBS assuming de facto power as crown prince, rights groups have reported that authorities have arrested numerous prominent clerics and imams opposed to MBS’s reform agenda.

Salman al-Odah, a Saudi Arabian who called on Saudi Arabia to reconcile its differences with Qatar after Riyadh imposed a regional blockade on Qatar, was also detained.

Talib’s court sentencing was confirmed by Dawn, a group founded by Jamal Khashoggi.

According to Dawn spokesperson Abdullah Alaoudh, the prison sentence is part of a growing trend where clerics and imams face imprisonment for opposing reforms pursued by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“It is a stark irony that the imam of the Grand Mosque, Saleh Al Talib, was sentenced to ten years in prison for criticizing social reforms, while the woman activist Salma Alshehab was sentenced to 34 years for advocating social reforms,”

Alaoudh pointed out, noting that his father is Salman al-Odah. 

“It should be noted that all political prisoners, including Imam Al Talib, were arrested for peacefully expressing their opinions. Repression should be stopped against everyone, without exception.”  

As well as Salma al-Shehab, another critic of the Saudi government, has been arrested and sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweets that criticize the government.

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