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25 Aug 2018
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Saudi Arabia Plans to Execute First Female Political Activist

Human rights activists are campaigning to save the life of the first woman in Saudi Arabia to be sentenced to death over her political activism.

Israa al-Ghomgham, 29, was arrested along with her husband Moussa al-Hashem in December 2015 for their roles in organising anti-government protests in eastern Qatif province in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

In a hearing at Riyadh's specialised criminal court earlier this month, the public prosecutor recommended Ms Ghomgham and five other defendants face beheading under anti-terrorism legislation.

Activists are now lobbying for the decision to be reversed at an appeal scheduled for October. If the recommendation is upheld, the ruling will be passed to King Salman, who usually ratifies all capital punishment in the kingdom.

Ms Ghomgham is a "well known human rights defender", according to the Germany based European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR).

The decision sets a "dangerous precedent" for female activists in the deeply conservative country, ESOHR director Ali Adubisi said in a statement.

The group is calling for Ms Ghomgham's immediate release, noting that she has been incarcerated for almost three years and has not been allowed access to a lawyer.

She was arrested for offences including calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to anti-Shia government discrimination, a common allegation in Shia majority Qatif.

Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to The Independent's request for comment.

Ms Ghomgham's case has gained traction in recent weeks after several false reports of her execution circulated in Arabic language media and social media networks.

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