A court in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, handed down a sentence of four months in jail and 300 lashes to 49 workers whose crime was to protest the non-payment of their salaries by the Binladin Group.
The construction company, founded 80 years ago by the father of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, laid off 70,000 employees a year ago after the oil price collapsed and massive military spending in Syria and Yemen forced the government to suspend payments to private contractors.
In May, the workers took to the streets, and some of them set fire to seven buses owned by the company. This week the workers were sentenced for damaging private property and incitement to demonstrate.
The case is not unique in Saudi Arabia, but it embodies the country’s destructive clash between modernism and conservatism, Western consumerism and the suppression of fundamental rights.
Tens of thousands of employees of Saudi Oger, a construction company headed by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, have been awaiting their salaries for months.