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Saudi Arabia seeking the death penalty for woman accused of openly opposing regime

Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives at the Elysee Presidential palace for a meeting on April 10 with French President in Paris. Although bin Salman has been praised for his moderating influence in Saudi Arabia, the country is still considering the death penalty for a woman whose only crime was voicing opposition to the government. (LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Prosecutors representing the Saudi Arabian government are seeking the death penalty for a woman charged with protesting the regime. The death penalty in Saudi Arabia is typically carried out by beheading.

What are the charges?

Israa al-Ghomgham is charged along with four other Shiite Muslim activists with "participating in protests in the Qatif region," "incitement to protest," "chanting slogans hostile to the regime," "attempting to inflame public opinion," "filming protests and publishing on social media," and "providing moral support to rioters," according to Human Rights Watch. Needless to say, Saudi citizens have no First Amendment protections.

While the five activists are Shia, the Saudi government is Sunni Muslim. In addition to targeting opponents of the regime, the Saudi government also has a history of discriminating against Shia Muslims.

Ghomgham would be the first female activist to receive the death penalty in that country.

The regime has held her and her husband since 2015. Political parties are banned in Saudi Arabia.

Ghomgham has a court date scheduled for Oct.28.

Human Rights Watch said Ghomgham was well known for participating in protests.

What did the Saudi prosecutor say?

The Saudi prosecutor called for the judge to rule in favor of the death penalty based on "tazir," a Saudi legal principle under Sharia law that gives the judge broad authority both to consider what constitutes a crime, and what the sentence for that crime should be, according to the BBC.

The prosecutor reports directly to Saudi King Salman. He also reports "by proxy" to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to NBC News. The crown prince has been praised as a modernizing force in the country, for pushing initiatives that include allowing women to drive.

However, he has also been behind a crackdown on the opposition, including arresting 11 Saudi princes for speaking out against a royal order that took away their subsidies for utility bills.

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