Saudi Arabia detains Mecca Grand Mosque imam, rights group says

Date of publication: 18 September, 2018

Saudi authorities have reportedly arrested one of the imams of the Great Mosque of Mecca amid a crackdown on dissent in the ultraconservative kingdom.

Security forces detained Sheikh Bandar Baleela on 11 September on “suspicion of transgressing regulations imposed on clerics” and released him four days later, the activist-led Twitter account Prisoners of Conscience said on Sunday.

“We have confirmed that Saudi authorities deliberately released Sheikh Bandar to lead evening prayers ahead of the news of his arrest being published,” the rights group said.

Semi-official Saudi media have denied the arrest, with Sabq saying the report was “fake news based on unreliable social media accounts”.

Saudi authorities have arrested dozens of religious figures since September 2017 in a widening crackdown on opposition to the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The report comes after Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor  sought the death penalty against prominent cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awdah.

Last month, Prisoners of Conscience reported that Saleh Al Taleb – another imam at the Great Mosque of Mecca – was arrested after delivering a sermon criticising mixed public gatherings.( The News Arab )