Social Media Users Challenge Saudi Arabia's Decision to Sue Tweeter

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends the Summit of South American-Arab Countries, in Riyadh November 10. Twitter users have taken the country's ministers to task over reports it threatened to sue a tweeter. Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters

Thousands of Twitter users posted messages on Tuesday that included the hashtag #SueMeSaudi in a challenge to a Saudi Arabian government official who reportedly threatened to sue a critical Twitter user.

Government-aligned newspaper Al-Riyadh reported on November 25 that Saudi Arabia's justice ministry plans to sue an unnamed Twitter user after he or she compared the death sentence handed to Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to punishments handed out by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

The newspaper quoted the source as saying: "The justice ministry will sue the person who described...the sentencing of a man to death for apostasy as being 'ISIS-like'."

More than 110,000 Twitter users responded by restating the claims made by the original user and likening the Saudi government's legal procedures to ISIS.

"Saudi Arabia says it'll sue people saying its justice "system" is like #ISIS's. Beheading folk for apostasy etc means it is. So #SueMeSaudi," one tweet read.

Political cartoonist Peter Brookes tweeted a copy of his cartoon that ran in The Times newspaper in which he described ISIS as a "barbaric death cult" but also pondered: "What about some of our allies?"

My cartoon Saturday @TheTimes. Isis is a barbaric death cult...what about some of our allies? #syriaairstrikes

— Peter Brookes (@BrookesTimes) November 28, 2015

One user asked social media users how they feel about Saudi Arabia's head of state, King Salman.

One user tweeted a photograph of a sign, saying "Proud to be atheist," next to the sacred site of the Ka'aba located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Some risk their lives being proud to be Atheist.

Those living in IS.
Those living in Saudi Arabia. #SueMeSaudi

— Markus Popp 🇪🇺 #EU25 (@mpopp75) November 29, 2015

On November 17, a Saudi Arabian court sentenced Fayadh to death after he allegedly renounced the Islamic faith. According to trial documents reviewed by non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), Fayadh made the comments during a group discussion in a café in August 2013.

Global artists around the world have since condemned the sentence, including British poet Carol Ann Duffy, Syrian poet Adonis and Saudi artist Ahmed Mater. "We don't want to lose him," says Mater, a close friend of Fayadh's and a member of London-based art organization Edge of Arabia, speaking by phone in Saudi Arabia. "He's been a very close friend and the last thing we want to witness is his death."