Two prominent Saudi clerics detained during large-scale arrests of “Islamist scholars”

Sheikh Salman al-Odah

Two prominent Saudi clerics were among dozens of detainees arrested on Sunday during predawn raids targeting “Islamist scholars” who have criticised the kingdom’s rulers.

Multiple human rights sources later confirmed the arrest of Sheikh Salman al-Ouda and Sheikh Awad al-Qarni.

Ouda, an influential cleric with 14 million followers on Twitter was imprisoned from 1994-1999 for advocating political change.

According to Saudi rights group AIQST, he was allegedly arrested because of a tweet he posted supporting mediation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In one of his last posts on Twitter, he welcomed a report published last Friday suggesting that the three-month diplomatic row between Qatar and four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia may be resolved.

Ouda tweeted: “May God harmonize between their hearts for the good of their people” in light of a report of a telephone call between Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss ways to resolve the rift which began in June.

Saudi forces also detained al-Qarni, another cleric with 2.2 million Twitter followers, after he expressed support for reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Saudi officials could not be reached for a comment on the reported arrests.

The arrest campaign came amid reports that King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud plans to renounce power in favour of his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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