Saudi Arabia sentenced 54-year-old retired schoolteacher Muhammad al-Ghamdi to death for posting criticisms of the Saudi government for corruption and human rights violations to social media.
September 27, 2023
His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud
Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia
Executive Office of the Crown Prince
P.O. Box 11111
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Your Royal Highness:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers, and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
This communication is regarding Muhammad al-Ghamdi, a 54-year-old retired schoolteacher. He was arrested in June 2022 for posting several tweets to X, more commonly known as Twitter, and videos to YouTube, with content perceived as criticism of your government’s record on human rights and corruption. He was convicted in July under various articles of Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism law and sentenced to death.
The Committee is concerned this case is part of a recurring pattern of stifling free speech and criticism of your government, which are both important parts of civil society. This pattern occurs even as several high-ranking officials in your government are allowed to use Twitter, and while the Saudi government is the second largest investor in Twitter. The Saudi government is also heavily invested in Alphabet, which owns YouTube. The sentence is excessive for a nonviolent offense that took place on the internet.
The Committee is also concerned al-Ghamdi was not given proper access to legal representation before his conviction and was subjected to solitary confinement, which is akin to torture. The Committee is especially concerned about the overuse of the death penalty.
It would also appear the conviction is retribution for the work of al-Ghamdi’s brother, Saeed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi, an Islamic scholar and well-known critic of your government, who lives in the United Kingdom. al-Ghamdi should not be held liable for the actions and statements of his brother.
In your recent interview with Fox News, you expressed an opinion that the death sentence for al-Ghamdi was shameful and that you were in favor of changing the law that has led to it. We trust that your words will be followed by actions.
We write to urge you to ensure al-Ghamdi be granted clemency. If his conviction is politically motivated, it should be vacated immediately.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. We will be closely following developments in this case.
Antony J. Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520 USA
Phone: (202) 647-4000
Ambassador of the United States to Saudi Arabia
U.S. Embassy Riyadh
P.O. Box 94309
Phone: 00966 11-835-4000
Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 1 202 342 3800