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Former imam of Mecca’s Grand Mosque jailed for 10 years

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A Saudi court has sentenced a prominent former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca to 10 years in prison, Middle East Eye reported.

The Specialised Criminal Appeals Court in Riyadh sentenced Sheikh Saleh al Talib to prison after overturning a previous acquittal, US-based rights group Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn) said.

Saudi authorities first detained Talib in 2018 and gave no reason for his arrest, which came after he delivered a sermon criticising the General Entertainment Authority, a government body in charge of regulating the entertainment industry, according to activists, Middle East Eye reported.

He condemned concerts and events that he said broke away from the country’s religious and cultural norms.

Talib has a global following, with thousands of people watching his sermons and recitations of the Quran on YouTube.

His arrest comes as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues his drive to reform Saudi society and diversify the Gulf kingdom’s oil-dependent economy.

Since MBS, as the Crown Prince is popularly know, assumed de facto power, rights groups say authorities have arrested dozens of several prominent clerics and imams who are critical of his reform agenda, Middle East Eye reported.

Among those detained are Salman al-Odah, who called for the Saudi Arabian people to reconcile their differences with Qataris after Riyadh led a region-wide blockade of the Gulf country.

Dawn, a group founded by the late journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirmed Talib’s court sentencing on Twitter.

Abdullah Alaoudh, a spokesperson for Dawn, condemned the prison sentence and said it was part of a growing pattern of clerics and imams facing imprisonment for speaking out against reforms pursued by MBS, Middle East Eye reported.

“The sentencing of the Grand Mosque’s Imam Saleh Al Talib to 10 years for criticizing social changes and the sentencing of women activist Salma Alshehab to 34 years for calling for real social reforms is a stark irony that tells us that MBS’s oppression threatens every group,” said Alaoudh, whose father is Salman al-Odah.

“What is in common between all political prisoners including Imam Al Talib is that they peacefully expressed their opinions and got arrested for it. This repression should stop against everyone (with) no exceptions.”

Other recent critics arrested include PhD student Salma al-Shehab, who was sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweets that were critical of the Saudi government, Middle East Eye reported.

International News

West uses human rights as ‘tool’ to pressure others: Iran

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Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani has criticized Western countries for what he called their use of human rights as a “tool” to exert pressure on other countries.

“When human rights are turned into a plaything and a tool to apply political pressure on others, the media empire of the hegemonic system also helps to replace the accused with the plaintiff in the case of systematic human rights violations,” Kanaani wrote in an Instagram post on Thursday.

The spokesman’s comments followed Western media’s reports about recent protests in Iran, which were triggered by the death of 22-year-old Iranian girl Mahsa Amini, who died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police.

Following the recent protests in the country, the Canadian government has slapped sanctions on Iranian institutions and individuals for alleged “rights violations,” Xinhua news agency reported.

Kanaani referred to the reports of the separation of thousands of indigenous children from their families in the past decades in Canada and the discovery of children’s mass graves in Canada’s residential schools, saying that the people of the world have not forgotten “the sad saga”.

“Blurting out words about other countries and hiding behind accusations against others will not change the fact that behind the window of human rights in one of the American government’s closest allies, child-killing and disregard for humanity is showing off,” he added.

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International News

At the request of Qatar, Turkey will send army for World Cup security

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Turkey’s parliament has approved a proposal to send troops to Qatar to provide security support during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. “At Qatar’s request, a proposal was tabled in parliament on Saturday to deploy troops for six months to provide security during the football tournament in November,” parliament said in a statement on Wednesday.

The objective of the operation is to take necessary measures against various threats, especially terrorism, which may affect security. According to Turkish media reports, apart from Turkey, USA, France, UK, Italy and Pakistan will also provide security support during the World Cup in Qatar.

Qatar is facing a shortage of security personnel for the month-long FIFA soccer tournament, Xinhua News Agency reported.

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Rupee slips down against dollar on oil price increase

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Rising international oil prices saw the Indian rupee depreciating to Rs 81.94 against the US dollar.

The rupee opened at Rs 81.52 on Thursday at the interbank forex market and then went down to Rs 81.94.

Experts said demand for dollars from oil importers resulted in a fall in rupee.

The oil prices are expected to climb up as the producing nations have announced their plans to cut production.

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