Riyadh Widens Crackdown on Dissent, Arrests Senior Cleric
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Saudi authorities arrested another university professor in the conservative oil-rich kingdom as part of a widening crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against Muslim clerics and intellectuals.
The rights group Prisoners of Consciousness, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page on Sunday that Shaikh Nasser al-Omar, a former professor at the Faculty of Fundamentals of Religion at Riyadh-based Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University had been detained and his Twitter account suspended.
The post added that Saudi officials had earlier imposed a travel ban on the academic, Press TV reported.
Separately, Saudi officials have arrested Shaikh Ahmed al-Emari, a professor of Quranic studies at the Medina-based Taibah University, on charges of contact with political dissident, Shaikh Safar al-Hawali.
Abdulaziz Abdullatif, a member of the academic board at the same Saudi university, had been detained nearly a year ago.
Human rights activists say Saudi authorities have put more than 16 university professors and lectures behind bars since last September, and in most cases have not leveled any charges against them.
Saudi Arabia has lately stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.
Saudi officials have also intensified security measures in the Shiite-populated and oil-rich Eastern Province.
Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime with security forces increasing security measures across the province.
Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.
In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the policies of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif in 2012.