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Saudi scholar Salman al-Odah trial delayed for four months

Odah's son says the prominent scholar was handcuffed when he appeared in court on Sunday
Odah has spent three years in solitary confinement after being detained for a tweet calling for reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar (AFP)

Imprisoned Saudi scholar Salman al-Odah attended a closed trial on Sunday in Saudi Arabia after spending years in solitary confinement. 

The 63-year-old cleric was handcuffed during the court session in Riyadh, which was "speedily adjourned" and scheduled to take place again in four months, according to his son Abdullah Aloudh. 

Odah was first detained in September 2017 after tweeting a prayer for reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, three months after Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Manama launched a blockade against the emirate. 

Following multiple delays, the cleric's hearing resumed in October 2020. He stands accused of 63 accounts of terrorism. 

The charges against him include exposing "injustices towards prisoners" and "expressing cynicism and sarcasm about the government's achievements".

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Odah has also been accused of affiliation with the Qatari royal family, with the Saudi government citing his public unwillingness to support the Saudi-led boycott against the emirate.

The scholar, who has 13 million followers on Twitter, was arrested as part of a wave of arrests targeting critics and opponents of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

Last year, Aloudh wrote on Twitter that the Saudi authorities were "slowly" killing his father in prison by neglecting the scholar's medical needs. 

Aloudh also said in 2020 that his father was denied self-defence during a previous court hearing

Saudi authorities had previously accused Odah of being part of a "scheme to destabilise the country". He potentially faces the death penalty.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Saudi Arabia's King Salman to release the cleric.

"Peaceful expression should not be met with solitary confinement and death sentence," the rights group said in December. 

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