Saudi Arabia, wary of possible coups, is cracking down strictly on discontent within its underpaid and worn-out army.
“High treason” as a legal concept does not exist in Saudi Arabia anyway, because there is no such thing in Sharia law, which — despite massive reform in Islamic institutions in recent years — remains fundamental to the kingdom’s judicial process. While the concept of treason does exist in Sharia, it usually refers to collaborating with the enemy in terms of espionage, but it is carefully qualified and does not automatically lead to execution.
Opposition sources say al-Balawi and Hassan were executed after refusing to bomb civilian targets in Yemen. They may also have been recorded criticizing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).
No Sharia court could justify sentencing someone to death for refusing to bomb civilians in Yemen, hence the unspecific treason charges. But as everyone in the kingdom understands, the courts are highly politicized and serve the wishes of the crown prince’s regime.
The point is to send a strong message of deterrence to other would-be dissenters and prevent al-Balawi and Hassan from becoming the crystal in the saturated solution — catalysts for an armed rebellion against MbS.
In May 2023, despite being subject to a travel ban, former Saudi National Guardsman Muhannad al-Subiani defected and made his way to the UK where he told a human rights organization that, while serving in the National Guard, he had witnessed numerous horrific violations of detainees’ and migrants’ human rights, in addition to the smuggling of drugs and weapons.
The war in Yemen does not account for all of the discontent in the army. Saudi soldiers, especially at the lower levels, are generally not treated well. Their salary is much less than elsewhere in the Gulf. It starts at the equivalent of $1,790 per month, compared to a Kuwaiti soldier’s starting monthly salary of around $2,360 and a Qatari soldier’s $2,500, and the Saudi rank and file receive no special allowances.
Before the public prosecutor decreed that anyone who complained publicly would be punished, on several occasions Saudi soldiers broadcast videos appealing to the king for financial help. They said that while they were away fighting, their families were facing eviction or repossessions for non-payment of debts.
Source: Fair Observer
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