Saudi Arabia threatens Twitter user with lawsuit

Saudi Arabia threatens to sue Twitter user who said a death sentence handed down to a poet was 'ISIS-like'.

Ben Ariel,

Twitter's corporate headquarters
Twitter's corporate headquarters

Saudi Arabia is threatening to sue a Twitter user who compared the death sentence handed down last Friday to a Palestinian Arab poet to the punishments meted out by Islamic State (ISIS), Reuters reported.

"The justice ministry will sue the person who described ... the sentencing of a man to death for apostasy as being 'ISIS-like'," the newspaper Al-Riyadh quoted a source in the justice ministry as saying.

"Questioning the fairness of the courts is to question the justice of the Kingdom and its judicial system based on Islamic law, which guarantees rights and ensures human dignity", the source added, according to Reuters. The ministry would not hesitate to put on trial "any media that slandered the religious judiciary of the Kingdom," it said. 

The source did not identify the Twitter user or the possible penalty.

The lawsuit threat comes nearly a week after a Saudi Arabian court sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death for apostasy, according to Reuters.

Fayadh was detained by the country's religious police in 2013 in Abha, in southwest Saudi Arabia, and then rearrested and tried in early 2014.

Saudi Arabia's justice system is based on Islamic Sharia law, and its judges are clerics of the Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam. In the Wahhabi interpretation of Sharia, religious crimes, including blasphemy and apostasy, incur the death penalty.

Saudi Arabia is notorious for its violations of human rights and specifically those of women. One of the most notorious practices in Saudi Arabia is the ban on women driving, which has been targeted by a long-standing campaign which has urged women to defy the ban

However, it is not just women who are persecuted in Saudi Arabia. In January, blogger Raif Badawi was flogged 50 times after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for blasphemy last year, prompting an international outcry.

In another example, Saudi Arabia has sentenced a Shiite cleric who called for pro-democracy protests to death.

Yet despite its violation of human rights, Saudi Arabia recently has a seat on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), being one of several countries with questionable human rights records to win seats in this body.

Saudi Arabia's envoy to the UNHRC was in September selected to head an influential panel on human rights, despite Riyadh's own poor track record for human rights issues.