Saudi opposition calls for 'independent investigation' into dissident's death in Lebanon

Saudi opposition calls for 'independent investigation' into dissident's death in Lebanon
Lebanese security forces said the dissident was killed over a "private dispute", but others want a more comprehensive investigation.
3 min read
12 July, 2022
A banner depicting former Lebanese premier Saad Hariri and another of Saudi Arabia's King Salman (R) and his son Crown Prince Mohammed with a slogan "Beirut remains Arab despite the haters", in Beirut, Lebanon on 27 April, 2022. [Getty]

A Saudi opposition group, the National Assembly Party (NAAS), has called for an independent investigation into the murder of its founder, Manea al-Yami, who was killed in his home in Beirut on Sunday.

The Lebanese authorities have been mostly silent about details surrounding the murder of al-Yami, but have said his two brothers stabbed him to death following a custody dispute. Al-Yami was reportedly married to the ex-wife of one of his brothers.

"We are calling for a transparent, independent investigation into his death," Abdullah Alaoudh, the Secretary-General of NAAS and director for the Gulf region at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), told The New Arab.

Alaoudh said that the UN would be the natural choice to carry out such an investigation.

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"We are not pointing the finger at anyone. But the circumstances of his death are suspicious," Alaoudh said.

He added that Lebanon had long been a base of operations for foreign states against dissidents and that "Saudi Arabia has a long arm and a pattern of trans-national repression."

Alaoudah said that the last time al-Yami spoke with NAAS, he expressed that he felt "unsafe" in Lebanon, though he did not express what specifically caused him to feel that way.

He asked for assistance in claiming asylum in a third country, but the process was drawn out because of a long queue of asylum seekers in Lebanon.

Al-Yami had been living in Lebanon since 2015, in exile from his home country of Saudi Arabia. He was a human rights activist and called for a democratic Saudi Arabia – an imprisonable offence in the autocratic monarchy.

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In recent years, al-Yami and two of his brothers had been living in the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut. The group has a history of hosting Gulf dissidents as part of its geopolitical alliance with Iran.

Al-Yami had been working anonymously in Lebanon to advance human rights in the region, according to Yahya Assiri, the co-founder of NAAS. The party has said it wants a parliament and separation of powers in Saudi Arabia.

"He was trying to keep a low profile," Assiri said to The New Arab.

Lebanon has had a tumultuous relationship with the Arab Gulf states, especially in the last year. After a previous Minister of Information condemned Saudi Arabia's role in the war on Yemen in October 2021, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states cut off relations with Lebanon.

Though the minister's comments were the immediate impetus for the diplomatic incident, Gulf states have long resented Hezbollah's domination of Lebanon's politics. Gulf states view the militia as an Iranian proxy and antithetical to its interests.

The Saudi ambassador in Beirut thanked Lebanese authorities for their role in "uncovering the facts and bringing the perpetrators to justice," after they arrested the al-Yami's brothers.