Hawzah News Agency - (Riyadh - Saudi Arabia) The London-based online news outlet Middle East Eye, citing two unnamed Saudi government sources, reported on Tuesday that the three men are Sheikh Salman al-Ouda, Sheikh Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari.
Ouda is the assistant secretary-general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, which the Riyadh regime has listed as a terrorist organization.
Saudi authorities detained the prominent cleric on September 7, 2017, and have held him in solitary confinement without charge or trial ever since. The officials have imposed travel bans on members of his family as well.
A family member has told Human Rights Watch that the distinguished cleric was being held over his refusal to comply with an order by Saudi authorities to tweet a specific text to support the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.
Ouda, instead, posted a tweet, saying, “May God harmonize between their hearts for the good of their people,” - an apparent call for reconciliation between the Persian Gulf littoral states.
Awda has been prevented from communicating with the outside world since October last year.
The trio is currently awaiting trial at the Special Criminal Court in the capital Riyadh. A hearing was set for May 1, but was postponed without setting a further date.
“They will not wait to execute these men once the death sentence has been passed,” a source stated on condition of anonymity.
A second source, requesting not to be named, noted that the beheading of 37 Saudi nationals in a single day in April was used as a trial balloon to see how strong the international condemnation was.
“When they found out there was very little international reaction, particularly at the level of governments and heads of state, they decided to proceed with their plan to execute figures who were prominent,” the source added.
The mass execution was the largest in Saudi Arabia since January 2016, when 47 men were executed on a single day, including Shia cleric Sheikh Mohammad Baqer Nimr al-Nimr.
It brings the number of such punishments this year to 106, according to a count by Human Rights Watch. Last year, the oil-rich Persian Gulf state carried out the death sentences of 149 people, according to Amnesty International.
Amnesty International has put Saudi Arabia on the list of top world executioners. According to data from the group, Riyadh executed at least 146 people in 2017, which represents 17 percent of all confirmed executions in the Middle East and North Africa.
MbS was appointed the first in line to the Saudi throne by his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, in June 2017. Since then, MbS has been involved in an aggressive push to purge royals and businessmen critical of his policies under the banner of an “anti-corruption campaign”. He has also ordered the rounding up of scores of activists, high-profile clerics and women's rights defenders. His international reputation has been badly tarnished by his role in Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Turkey last year.