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Saudi Arabia: Campaigners condemn reported arrest of 'apolitical' preacher Badr al-Meshari

The popular cleric was arrested despite voicing no 'opposition or criticism of the regime' says rights group
Reasons behind Badr al-Meshari's reported arrest remain unknown (Badr al-Meshari's Youtube page)
Reasons behind Badr al-Meshari's reported arrest remain unknown (YouTube)

Campaigners have condemned the recent arrest of a widely followed Saudi Arabian preacher for "unknown reasons". 

Badr al-Meshari's arrest was first reported on Monday by the advocacy Twitter account Prisoners of Conscience. 

The UK-based rights organisation Sanad confirmed the arrest the following day, based on "multiple sources".

Saudi Arabian authorities did not release any statements on the reported arrest and Middle East Eye could not independently verify it. 

However, Prisoners of Conscience said no reason was given for Meshari's arrest, and called for him to be freed.

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It added that he only preaches a religious message and is "apolitical".

Sanad said the 50-year-old cleric "has no opposition or criticism of the regime" and demanded his "immediate and unconditional release". 

Meshari, born in 1973, was previously the imam of the Hittin Mosque in the Saudi Arabian National Guard in Riyadh, said Sanad. 

He is well known in the Arabic-speaking world for his TV appearances and social media clips giving religious advice.

Prayer for crown prince

His purported Twitter account, which has not been active since February, has more than 500,000 followers. 

Some users online pointed out a tweet dating back to October in which he posted a prayer for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, highlighting what they say is the preacher's lack of political opposition. 

Since taking de facto control of Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2017, Mohammed bin Salman has overseen a widespread crackdown on members of its civil society, including dozens of preachers, academics, journalists, businesspeople and others.

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Among those arrested are prominent figures Salman Odah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari

In September 2018, Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor called for all three independent scholars to face the death penalty. 

Saudi officials say the kingdom does not have political prisoners.

Despite promises by the government to reduce the number of death sentences, a recent increase in executions has raised alarm among human rights groups.

The kingdom executed 147 people in 2022, including the mass execution of 81 people in one day, according to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights.

This year, at least 47 people have been executed so far.

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