A Saudi man named Muhammad Alghamdi has been sentenced to death for tweeting criticisms about Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, also known as MBS. Alghamdi had just 10 followers on his two anonymous social media accounts. This is believed to be the first death sentence for online activity criticizing the Saudi government. Others have previously been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for similar offenses.
Alghamdi, a father of seven, was arrested outside his home in Mecca in 2022. Court documents stated that he “targeted the status of the King and the Crown Prince” and that his actions were amplified by the fact that they occurred through a global media platform. Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have expressed outrage over the severity of the punishment.
It has been reported that Saudis often use social media platforms like Twitter to express their views on the government. However, there is a climate of fear, as individuals are aware of the dangers of criticizing the regime. Many believed that using anonymous accounts would provide some level of protection.
Crown Prince MBS has attracted controversy and international attention following the conclusion by intelligence agencies that he ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Khashoggi was also critical of the Saudi regime.
The case of Alghamdi highlights the risks faced by individuals who express dissenting views online in Saudi Arabia. It has also raised concerns about online privacy and the potential for abuse of user data by social media platforms. The situation has prompted calls for X’s owner, Elon Musk, to address the issue and comment on the involvement of Saudi investors in the website.