Former Makkah Imam sentenced to 10 years in prison
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Saudi Arabia – The Saudi Court of Appeals has sentenced Sheikh Saleh Al-Talib to 10 years in prison, a US-based rights group Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn) has said.

This was after the country’s Specialised Criminal Court had earlier acquitted the cleric.

According to reports, Sheikh Al-Talib, the 48-year-old prominent imam and a former preacher at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, was arrested in August 2018 after he delivered a sermon, criticising the General Entertainment Authority, a government body in charge of regulating the entertainment industry.

He condemned the organising of concerts and events that he said broke away from the country’s religious and cultural norms.

In his sermon, he disparaged the mixing of unrelated men and women at concerts and other mixed entertainment events.

Abdullah Alaoudh, a spokesperson for Dawn, condemned the prison sentence and said it was part of a growing pattern of clerics and imams facing imprisonment for speaking out against reforms.

“The sentencing of the Grand Mosque’s Imam Saleh Al Talib to 10 years for criticizing social changes and the sentencing of women activist Salma Alshehab to 34 years for calling for real social reforms is a stark irony,” said Alaoudh, whose father is Salman al-Odah.

Mr Al-Odah was among several prominent clerics and imams who were arrested for being critical of the country’s reform agenda led by the Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman.

The father of Alaoudh had called on Saudis to reconcile their differences with Qataris after Riyadh led a region-wide blockade of the Gulf country.

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Since MBS was named the crown prince, rights groups say authorities have arrested several prominent clerics and imams who are critical of his reform agenda.

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