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Canada criticises possible death penalty for Saudi woman activist amid human rights row Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Canada criticises possible death penalty for Saudi woman activist amid human rights row

Ghomgham's case has recently been highlighted by online activists [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 August, 2018

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Canadian authorities have voiced concern over a female human rights activist in Saudi Arabia who is facing a possible death penalty, despite a spat between the two countries.



Canadian authorities have voiced concern over a female human rights activist in Saudi Arabia, who is facing a possible death penalty, despite a spat between the two countries.

Foreign ministry spokesman Adam Austen made the remarks on Wednesday when asked about the case of Israa al-Ghomgham, local media reported.

"Canada is extremely concerned by the arrests of women’s rights activists," Austen said.

"These concerns have been raised with the Saudi government. Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women’s rights and freedom of expression around the world," he added.

Human Rights Watch also condemned Saudi authorities over Ghomgham's possible execution for peaceful activism.

"Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behaviour, is monstrous,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW Middle East director.

Ghomgham is a Shia activist well known for participating in and documenting mass demonstrations in the Eastern Province that began in early 2011, calling for an end to the systematic discrimination that Saudi Shia citizens face in the majority-Sunni country.

Authorities arrested Ghomgham and her husband in a night raid on their home on December 6, 2015 and have held them in Dammam's al-Mabahith prison ever since.

Ghomgham's case has recently been highlighted by online activists and rights groups, with some social media users even spreading false information that she had been recently executed.

Earlier this month, Riyadh expelled Canada's ambassador, recalled its own envoy and froze all new trade and investments after Ottawa denounced a crackdown on rights activists in Saudi Arabia.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stood firm throughout the dispute.

"Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights ... at home and abroad, wherever we see the need," Trudeau said.

Dozens of Saudi women's rights campaigners have been detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state.

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