Saudi court convicts 38 people on terrorism-related charges

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A Saudi Arabian court convicted 38 people of terrorism-related crimes, state-run Al Ekhbariya television reported on Tuesday.

The TV channel said they were charged with financing terrorism and with takfir – the Islamist militant practice of labeling followers of other schools of Islam unbelievers. It said one of them “set up a terrorist organization in prison”.

Ekhbariya did not provide the nationalities or names of those convicted, details about when they were arrested or put on trial, nor what sentences were issued by the specialist criminal court in Riyadh, which was set up to try terrorism cases.

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Riyadh has come under mounting international scrutiny over its human rights record since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 and the detention of women’s rights activists who are still on trial.

In April, the Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom beheaded 37 men for terrorism crimes. The U.N. human rights chief said most of them were Shi’ites who may not have had fair trials and at least three were minors when sentenced.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia launched a crackdown on dissent, arresting scores of clerics, intellectuals and activists. Some of them have been put on trial for terrorism-related charges.

The kingdom is an absolute monarchy where public protests and political parties are banned.

The Gulf Arab state faced a militant insurgency from 2003 to 2006 in which al Qaeda members staged attacks on residential compounds and government facilities.

The kingdom responded by arresting thousands of suspected militants and launching a media campaign to discredit their ideology.