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Top cleric Safar al-Hawali ‘detained by Saudi authorities’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has detained a prominent Islamist scholar, activists said Thursday, in a widening crackdown on dissent in the kingdom.

Rights campaigners and online activists said Sheikh Safar al-Hawali, a Sunni Islamist scholar and leading figure in Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Sahwa reformist movement, had been taken into custody.

They did not give further details about the case of the scholar, who has pushed a line of anti-Americanism and Islamic rule.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, named heir to the throne in June 2017, has spearheaded a string of reforms” over the past year aimed at improving his “country’s image and economy”.

The changes have coincided with a widening crackdown on all forms of opposition.

Hawali was jailed in the 1990s for opposing his country’s ties to US troops leading a military operation to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

In 1993, he was banned from public speaking and dismissed from his academic posts along with prominent cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awda.

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