A Saudi court sentenced a prominent former imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah to ten years in prison after he allegedly delivered a sermon criticizing mixed public gatherings.
The Specialized Criminal Appeals Court in Riyadh sentenced Sheikh Saleh al-Talib to prison after overturning a previous acquittal, Middle East Eye reported, citing the US-based rights group Democracy for the Arab World Now.
According to activists, Saudi authorities first detained Talib in 2018 and gave no reason for his arrest, which occurred after he delivered a sermon criticizing the General Entertainment Authority, a government body in charge of regulating the entertainment industry.
He had previously condemned concerts and events that he felt deviated from the country’s religious and cultural norms.
The imam has a global following, with thousands of people watching his sermons and Holy Quran recitations on YouTube.
His arrest comes as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pursues reforms in Saudi society and diversification of the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy.
According to Khaleej Online, Talib, who also served as a judge in Makkah, condemned the mixing of unrelated men and women at concerts and other mixed entertainment events in his sermon.