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New Saudi Rules Could Mean Execution for Internet 'Rumor-Mongers'

© AP Photo / Hasan Jamali / A Saudi man passes the al-Faisaliya tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
A Saudi man passes the al-Faisaliya tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - Sputnik International
In a shocking decision, Saudi Arabia has reportedly warned social media users that spreading rumors about the government could face an Internet ban – or execution.

Already heavily criticized for its human rights record, Saudi Arabia is now taking things even further. With a law aimed at “rumor-mongers” who “cause confusion in societies,” the Kingdom could begin punishing people for comments made on Facebook and Twitter.

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Punishments will range from a social media ban to execution.

The news comes from an anonymous source within the Saudi Ministry of Justice, who conducted an interview with Makkah Online. According to a translation by human rights group Reprieve, sentencing decisions would be determined by a senior judge.

It remains unclear what type of post would result in a death sentence, but similar laws already in place could provide some indication. According to Saudi Arabia’s Basic Law of Governance, "it is prohibited to commit acts leading to disorder and division, affecting the security of the state and its public relations, or undermining human dignity and rights."

"This looks like yet another heavy-handed attempt to crush dissent in Saudi Arabia, especially among the young," Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, told the Daily Mail.

The decision comes as Ali Mohammed al-Nimr awaits crucifixion. Jailed in 2012 for taking part in an anti-government protest, the then-17-year-old was sentenced to death.

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"The Kingdom is executing people at double the rate of last year, with many of those facing the swordsman’s blade sentenced to death for drug offences, attending protests or exercising their right to free speech," Foa said.

If al-Nimr’s execution is carried out, despite international outrage, it will be the latest in what has been violent year for the Saudi government. As of September 28, at least 102 people have been put to death by the Kingdom, most by beheading.

"The way that the whole justice system operates in Saudi Arabia means that there is very little transparency and accountability to these types of decisions. So nobody knows anything," Sevag Kechichian, a researcher for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program, told Sputnik.

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The record-high execution rate comes amid a slew of other human rights abuses. The government has been accused of mismanaging Mecca, resulting in the stampede which killed over 1,000 last month. The Saudi-led coalition bombing Yemen also resulted in the deaths of 131 civilians in a wedding party last month.

Throughout all of this, the Kingdom’s Western allies have remained largely silent.

"So far, neither the UK nor the US – both key allies of Saudi Arabia – have taken a strong line against this appalling behavior," Foa said.

Still, executing people for Internet posts is a drastically different kind of human rights abuse.

"It is unthinkable that people could face a death sentence for a simple tweet," Foa added.

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