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Three Bank Stocks to Buy When Fed-fueled Financial Fear Fades

Three bank stocks to buy when Fed-fueled financial fears fade feature companies that could surge when current shareholder selling subsides. Bargain-minded…



Three bank stocks to buy when Fed-fueled financial fears fade feature companies that could surge when current shareholder selling subsides.

Bargain-minded investors may want to watch the three bank stocks to buy when Fed-fanned shareholder selling stops. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise rates on Wednesday, May 3, for the 10th time in a row as it seeks to keep fighting inflation. 

The Federal Open Market Committee, the U.S. central bank’s monetary policy-setting body, began its series of nine consecutive rate hikes on March 17, 2022, moving the Federal Funds rate from 0-.25% to 4.75-5% on March 2, 2023. Many prognosticators are predicting a 10th straight rise in rates on May 3 but the fallout has exposed risk management missteps that led to the failure of Silicon Valley Bank, of Santa Clara, California, on March 10, and Signature Bank, of New York, on March 12.

Three Bank Stocks to Buy When Fed-fueled Financial Fears Fizzle out

A new shockwave occurred on Monday, May 1, when JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) announced it would pay $10.6 billion to acquire most of the assets of San Francisco’s First Republic Bank (NYSE: FRC) after regulators seized the lender as it became the biggest U.S. bank failure since the collapse of Washington Mutual during the 2008 financial crisis. The downfall of First Republic left shareholders with worthless stock.

“First Republic shares sold for over $200 a share in November 2021,” wrote Mark Skousen, PhD, to subscribers of his Forecasts & Strategies investment newsletter on Monday, May 1.

Mark Skousen co-heads Fast Money Alert.

Last Friday, April 28, First Republic shares traded for around $3, before they sank to zero on Monday, May 1, Skousen commented. The bank had a rising dividend policy and turned a $269 million profit in the first quarter of 2023. However, half its depositors withdrew their money, he added.

“This goes to show you how fast a financial institution can fail when there’s a run on the bank,” Skousen counseled.

Three Bank Stocks to Buy Even as Fed-fueled Failures Multiple

Even though JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon predicted the current banking crisis had ended with his company’s takeover of failing First Republic, Skousen expressed his doubts. There is never just “only one cockroach,” wrote Skousen, citing a Wall Street saying.

A sell-off in regional banks followed on Tuesday, May 2, when PacWest Bancorp (NASDAQ: PACW), of Beverly Hills, California, plunged 27.78%; Western Alliance Bancorp (NASDAQ; WAL), of Phoenix, Arizona, fell 15.12%; and Dallas-based Comerica Bank cratered 12.42%.

The three bank stocks to buy when the Fed seems ready to halt its rate hikes appear capable of overcoming the dual risks of high inflation and a potential recession. Bigger bank stocks should be better positioned than smaller regional banks to withstand current economic headwinds due to tighter regulatory scrutiny.

The 3,800 floor in the S&P should hold for now, but may be followed by a rally to 4,100-4,200, according to BofA Global Research. Investors currently prefer large caps over small caps, with quality trumping junk bonds, as a recent shift of deposits from banks occurred at the fastest pace since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, BofA added.

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Three Bank Stocks to Buy Are Affected by Industry Struggles

In the Fed’s recent monthly report, the U.S. central bank announced that “loans to commercial banks” jumped to $345.5 billion in March. The Fed’s Discount Window was “wide open,” with the Fed making more short-term loans to banks than it did in the financial crisis of 2008, said Mark Skousen, who co-heads the Fast Money Alert trading service with seasoned investor Jim Woods.

Bank deposits, which free-market economist Skousen equated to the money supply, fell 2.5% as depositors withdrew billions of dollars from their bank accounts. If the trend continues, the United States will face a “major credit crunch,” he added.

Skousen wrote in his monthly Forecasts & Strategies newsletter that he laughed upon reading the headline of a Federal Reserve monthly report: “The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, provides the nation with a safe, flexible and stable financial and monetary system.”

Fed policy is anything but stable, Skousen opined.

“While the Biden administration continues to spend money like water, the Fed has imposed a tight money policy, which is likely to create an inflationary recession this year,” Skousen wrote in Forecasts & Strategies.

Three Bank Stocks to Buy Entice Skousen’s Attention

Even though investing in banks right now is risky, Skousen notched a profit of nearly 8% in just 43 days during 2021 by recommending shares of Signature Bank in Fast Money Alert. Skousen also has recommended banking stocks and call options in his Home Run Trader advisory service.

In Home Run Trader, Skousen recommended US Bancorp (NYSE: USB) to produce a 3.22% gain during 2007. The next year, Skousen recommended buying Bank of Montreal (NYSE: BMO), finishing with a 10.43% profit, before offering another bullish call in 2012 when he recommended Westpac Banking Corp. (NYSE WBK) before it climbed 13.92%.

Jim Woods, who heads the Bullseye Stock Trader advisory service, while partnering with Skousen in Fast Money Alert, recommends both stocks and options, and he has shown keen interest in banking stocks.

Jim Woods heads Bullseye Stock Trader.

Woods wrote in his May 2023 Successful Investing newsletter that banks and the financial sector had free money through minimal interest rates for more than a decade. Then, the Fed jacked up rates within about 10 months to levels not seen since the 1990s. The resulting financial stress contributed to the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and others, he added.

Three Bank Stocks to Buy Face Weakening Macroeconomic Conditions

The broad macroeconomic picture shows signs of weakness, with employment indicators deteriorating on a year-over-year and sequential basis in recent weeks, BofA reported. Despite rate increases, the unemployment rate in March of 3.5% was down 10 basis points, or 0.10%, from February.

As wage growth eases, the Fed will continue to consider relatively strong unemployment levels and the price indices in setting future rate hikes. While there have been signs of prices cooling, BofA Global Research is less optimistic for a soft landing and expects a mild recession to begin in second-half 2023.

Adjusted retail and food sales, along with credit card balances, are up on a year-over-year basis, as consumers keep spending amid high inflation. Plus, the mortgage backdrop has become progressively more difficult, and higher interest rates are leading to lower originations overall amid worsening affordability, BofA wrote.

Federal Reserve’s Supervision and Regulation Must Be Enhanced After Failures

The Federal Reserve’s supervision and regulation must be strengthened in the wake of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) failure on March 10, said Michael Barr, the Federal Reserve System’s vice chairman for supervision. After the Federal Reserve’s review of its supervision and regulation of Silicon Valley Bank, Barr said upon release of the report on April 28 that the failure stemmed from “a textbook case” of management missteps by the bank, whose senior leadership mismanaged basic interest rate and liquidity risk.

“Its board of directors failed to oversee senior leadership and hold them accountable,” Barr said. “And Federal Reserve supervisors failed to take forceful enough action, as detailed in the report. Our banking system is sound and resilient, with strong capital and liquidity. And in some respects, SVB was an outlier because of the extent of its highly concentrated business.”

This report is meant to serve as a self-assessment that takes an “unflinching look” at the conditions that led to the bank’s failure, including the role of Federal Reserve supervision and regulation, Barr said. Individuals not involved in the Silicon Valley Bank’s supervision conducted the review, which Barr said he oversaw.

Pension Fund Chairman Suggests an ETF Rather than Three Bank Stocks to Buy

Investors interested in a diversified portfolio of regional and smaller banks should consider the exchange-traded fund (ETF) Invesco KBW Regional Banking (KBWR), said Bob Carlson, a pension fund chairman who heads the Retirement Watch investment newsletter. It was up 36.09% in 2021, down 7.25% in 2022, and is down 27.24% so far in 2023. Its recent yield was 4.0%.

Bob Carlson, head of Retirement Watch, meets with Paul Dykewicz

The fund tracks the KBW Nasdaq Regional Banking Index, which is designed to mirror the performance of U.S. regional banking and thrift companies that are publicly traded.

KBWR has 50 positions with 30% of the fund in the 10 largest holdings.

Chart courtesy of

Three Bank Stocks to Buy Include One Favored by Money Manager

East West Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ: EWBC), of Pasadena, California, is a regional bank stock ripe for investors to buy after its recent price drop, said Michelle Connell, who heads the Dallas-based Portia Capital Management. A key reason to own EWBC shares is its 4.2% dividend yield that pays shareholders to remain patient for the financial sector to recover.

Michelle Connell heads Portia Capital Management.

The bank’s stock has fallen along with its banking peers, Connell added. Year to date, East West Bancorp, the holding company of East West Bank, is down 28.59%, Connell said. In the last 12 months, it’s slid 34.73%, while slipping 8.82% on Tuesday, May 2, she continued.

“However, the Bank had strong earnings when it reported on April 20,” Connell opined. East West Bank beat analysts’ consensus earnings estimates. Connell added.

Since April 20, at least four analysts have reiterated their overweight status on the stock and increased their long-term price targets,” Connell told me.

“The bank is interesting because not only do its 120 branches serve the East and West coasts and some mid-American cities, but the banking company also has branches in China.

Chart courtesy of

East West Bancorp Leads Three Bank Stocks to Buy

East West Bancorp has labeled itself as a “financial bridge” between the United States and China,” Connell said. Plus, East West Bancorp is “strong fundamentally,” Connell continued.

Currently, the bank has only 5% of its lending with venture capital organizations, Connell continued. East West Bancorp further has a $64 billion balance sheet, with $28 billion in unused borrowing facilities, Connell indicated.

One point of caution for all regional banks, including East West Bankcorp, is that it has exposure to commercial real estate, Connell counseled. The banking company’s dividend has grown 17% on an annualized basis, she added.

“The stock is very cheap,” Connell told me. “Its current price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is six, while its five-year average P/E ratio is 12.”

East West Bancorp Could Climb 25% or More in Next 12-18 Months

East West Bancorp’s upside during the next 12 to 18 month is 25% or greater, Connell said. She recommended dollar cost-averaging with this stock, as well as adding one or two more strong regional banks to one’s buy list.

East West Bancorp, Inc. reported first-quarter 2023 net income of $322.4 million, or $2.27 per diluted share, up from $237.7 million, or $1.66 per diluted share, in first-quarter 2022. Year-over-year, earnings per share increased 37%, while total loans reached a record $48.9 billion as of March 31, 2023.

“East West’s ability to consistently generate industry-leading profitability while maintaining above peer capital ratios are strengths in any business cycle,” stated Dominic Ng, its chairman and CEO. “East West continued to deliver in the first quarter, despite the banking industry and market disruption that occurred in mid-March.”

For the first quarter of 2023, the bank earned “industry-leading returns” of 2.0% on average assets and 22.9% on average tangible common equity, Ng continued.

KeyCorp Makes List of Three Bank Stocks to Buy

Cleveland-based Keycorp (NYSE: KEY), with a market capitalization of nearly $17.9 billion, received a buy rating from BofA Global Research in late February. However, it plunged 9.42% on Tuesday, May 2.

The bank’s management is investing in growing sectors such as health care, technology, renewable energy and affordable housing. So far, its leaders report staying on track to achieve a goal of organically growing its customer base 20% by 2025.

As for a price objective, BofA wrote in late February that it viewed $20 as realistic, even after factoring in recession risk. KEY’s risks include a prolonged low interest rate environment, greater-than-expected expenses and any inability to maximize balance sheet efficiency.

Chart courtesy of

SNV Snags Spot among Three Bank Stocks to Buy

Synovus Financial Corp. (NYSE: SNV), of Columbus, Georgia, has a $6.3 billion market capitalization and gained a buy rating from BoA in a research report from late February. The investment bank placed a $43 price objective on SNV at the time.

Of course, the banking sector has suffered since then amid high inflation and increased rates, so investors need to be cautious. Risks faced by SNV include potentially slowing economic growth, as well as a possible reduced takeout price compared to $40 price range where the stock had been trading in February.

Outperformance could come from a quicker-than-expected pickup in overall economic activity or the bank becoming an acquisition target above BofA’s price objective for SNV. Overall, the bank’s management expressed cautious optimism for its outlook and indicated to BofA in February that it had not needed to adjust its underwriting guidelines.

Chart courtesy of

CDC Sees Rising Vaccinations Against New Bivalent Variant of COVID-19

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported at least one vaccination against COVID-19 and its bivalent variant has been given to 270,047,396 people, or 81.3%, of the U.S. population, as of April 26. Those who have completed the primary COVID-19 doses totaled 230,533,196 of the U.S. population, or 69.4%, according to the agency.

Also as of April 26, the United States had given a bivalent COVID-19 booster to 52,331,682 people who are age 18 and up, equaling 20.3% of America’s population. Medical studies have shown vaccinations help keep people healthy and reduce the morbidity from contracting COVID, potentially boosting confidence of consumers to shop at stores, travel and otherwise spend money.

The three bank stocks to buy seem to be positioned to survive the current bank industry fallout and recover along with the rest of the financial services sector. Despite the possibility of further financial institution failures, these three bank stocks seem less vulnerable than industry peers, according to buy ratings and analysis of BofA in its publicly distributed research report in February.

Paul Dykewicz,, is an accomplished, award-winning journalist who has written for Dow Jones, the Wall Street JournalInvestor’s Business DailyUSA Today, the Journal of Commerce, Crain Communications, Seeking Alpha, Guru Focus and other publications and websites. Paul can be followed on Twitter @PaulDykewicz, and is the editor and a columnist at and He also serves as editorial director of Eagle Financial Publications in Washington, D.C. In that role, he edits monthly investment newsletters, time-sensitive trading alerts, free weekly e-letters and other reports. Previously, Paul served as business editor and a columnist at Baltimore’s Daily Record newspaper and as a reporter at the Baltimore Business Journal. Plus, Paul is the author of an inspirational book, “Holy Smokes! Golden Guidance from Notre Dame’s Championship Chaplain,” with a foreword by former national championship-winning football coach Lou Holtz. The uplifting book is endorsed by Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Ara Parseghian, “Rocket” Ismail, Reggie Brooks, Dick Vitale and many other sports figures. To buy signed and specially dedicated copies, call 202-677-4457.

The post Three Bank Stocks to Buy When Fed-fueled Financial Fear Fades appeared first on Stock Investor.

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Menendez indictment looks bad, but there are defenses he can make

The indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez is full of lurid details – hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash stuffed into clothes among them. Will they tank…




Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., right, and his wife Nadine Arslanian. AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

Reactions came quickly to the federal indictment on Sept. 22, 2023 of New Jersey’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Bob Menendez. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy joined other state Democrats in urging Menendez to resign, saying “The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state.”

The indictment charged Menendez, “his wife NADINE MENENDEZ, a/k/a ‘Nadine Arslanian,’ and three New Jersey businessmen, WAEL HANA, a/k/a ‘Will Hana,’ JOSE URIBE, and FRED DAIBES, with participating in a years-long bribery scheme…in exchange for MENENDEZ’s agreement to use his official position to protect and enrich them and to benefit the Government of Egypt.” Menendez said he believed the case would be “successfully resolved once all of the facts are presented,” but he stepped down temporarily as the chairman of the Senate’s influential Committee on Foreign Relations.

The Conversation’s senior politics and democracy editor, Naomi Schalit, interviewed longtime Washington, D.C. lawyer and Penn State Dickinson Law professor Stanley M. Brand, who has served as general counsel for the House of Representatives and is a prominent white-collar defense attorney, and asked him to explain the indictment – and the outlook for Menendez both legally and politically.

What did you think when you first read this indictment?

As an old seafaring pal once told me, “even a thin pancake has two sides.”

Reading the criminal indictment in a case for the first time often produces a startled reaction to the government’s case. But as my over 40 years of experience defending public corruption cases and teaching criminal law has taught me, there are usually issues presented by an indictment that can be challenged by the defense.

In addition, as judges routinely instruct juries in these cases, the indictment is not evidence and the jury may not rely on it to draw any conclusions.

A man in a suit pointing at a poster board with various photos on it.
Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a press conference on Sept. 22, 2023 after announcing the Menendez indictment. Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The average reader will look at the indictment and say “These guys are toast.” But are there ways Menendez can defend himself?

There are a number of complex issues presented by these charges that could be argued by the defense in court.

First, while the indictment charges a conspiracy to commit bribery, it does not charge the substantive crime of bribery itself. This may suggest that the government lacks what it believes is direct evidence of a quid pro quo – “this for that” – between Menendez and the alleged bribers.

There is evidence of conversations and texts that coyly and perhaps purposely avoid explicit acknowledgment of a corrupt agreement, for instance, “On or about January 24, 2022, DAIBES’s Driver exchanged two brief calls with NADINE MENENDEZ. NADINE MENENDEZ then texted DAIBES, writing, ‘Thank you. Christmas in January.’”

The government will argue that this reflects acknowledgment of a connection between official action and delivery of cash to Sen. Menendez, even though it is a less than express statement of the connection.

Speaking in this kind of code may not fully absolve the defendants, but the government must prove the defendants’ intent to carry out a corrupt agreement beyond a reasonable doubt – and juries sometimes want to see more than innuendo before convicting.

The government has also charged a crime calledhonest services fraud” – essentially, a crime involving a public official putting their own financial interest above the public interest in their otherwise honest and faithful performance of their duties.

The alleged failure of Sen. Menendez to list the gifts, as required, on his Senate financial disclosure forms will be cited by prosecutors as evidence of “consciousness of guilt” – an attempt to conceal the transactions.

However, under a recent Supreme Court case involving former Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia for similar crimes, the definition of “official acts” under the bribery statute has been narrowly defined to mean only formal decisions or proceedings. That definition does not include less-formal actions like those performed by Sen. Menendez, such as meetings with Egyptian military officials.

The Supreme Court rejected an interpretation of official acts that included arranging meetings with state officials and hosting events at the Governor’s mansion or promoting a private businessman’s products at such events.

When it comes time for the judge to instruct the jury at the end of the trial, Sen. Menendez may well be able to argue that much of what he did not constitute “official acts” and therefore are not illegal under the bribery statute.

This case involves alleged favors done for a foreign country in exchange for money. Does that change this case from simple bribery to something more serious?

The issue of foreign military sales to Egypt may also present a constitutional obstacle to the government.

The indictment specifically cites Sen. Menendez’s role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and actions he took in that role in releasing holds on certain military sales to Egypt and letters to his colleagues on that issue. The Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause protects members from liability or questioning when undertaking actions within the “legitimate legislative sphere” – which undoubtedly includes these functions.

While this will not likely be a defense to all the allegations, it could require paring the allegations related to this conduct. That would whittle away at a pillar of the government’s attempt to show Sen. Mendendez had committed abuse of office.

In fact, when the government has charged members of Congress with various forms of corruption, courts have rejected any reference to their membership on congressional committees as evidence against them.

Three men in suits, standing in front of a fire engine.
NJ Gov. Phil Murphy, left, seen here in 2018 with fellow Democrats Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, has called on Menendez to resign. AP Photo/Wayne Parry

How likely is Sen. Mendendez’ ouster from the Senate?

Generally, neither the House nor Senate will move to expel an indicted member before conviction.

There have been rare exceptions, such as when Sen. Harrison “Pete” Williams was indicted in the FBI ABSCAM sting operation from the late 1970s and early 1980s against members of Congress. He resigned in 1982 shortly before an expulsion vote. With current Democratic control of the Senate by a margin of just one seat, Sen. Menendez’ ouster seems unlikely even though the Democratic governor of New Jersey would assuredly appoint a Democrat to fill the vacancy.

“In the history of the United States Congress, it is doubtful there has ever been a corruption allegation of this depth and seriousness,” former New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli said. True?

That seems hyperbolic. The Menendez case is just the latest in a long line of corruption cases involving members of Congress.

In the ABSCAM case, seven members of the House and one Senator were all convicted in a bribery scheme. That scheme involved undercover FBI agents dressed up as wealthy Arabs, offering cash to Congressmembers in return for a variety of political favors.

In the Korean Influence Investigation in 1978 – when I served as House Counsel – the House and Department of Justice conducted an extensive investigation of influence peddling by Tongsun Park, a Korean national in which questionnaires were sent to every member of the House relating to acceptance of gifts from Park.

Going all the way back to 1872, there was the Credit Mobilier scandal that involved prominent members of the House and Vice President Schuyler Colfax in a scheme to reward these government officials with shares in the transcontinental railroad company in exchange for their support of funding for the project.

Stanley M. Brand does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Von Der Leyen Speech Suggests Russia Dropped Nuke On Hiroshima 

Von Der Leyen Speech Suggests Russia Dropped Nuke On Hiroshima 

Von der Leyen just said what?…

This past Wednesday, President of the European…



Von Der Leyen Speech Suggests Russia Dropped Nuke On Hiroshima 

Von der Leyen just said what?...

This past Wednesday, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen delivered a speech before the 2023 Atlantic Council Awards in New York, where she sounded the alarm over the specter of nuclear war centered on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. But while invoking remembrance of the some 78,000 civilians killed instantly by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of WWII, she said her warning comes "especially at a time when Russia threatens to use nuclear weapons once again". She  actually framed the atomic atrocity in a way that made it sound like the Russians did it. Watch:

There was not one single acknowledgement in Von der Leyen's speech that it was in fact the United States which incinerated and maimed hundreds of thousands when it dropped no less that two atomic bombs on Japanese cities.

Here were her precise words, according to an Atlantic Council transcript...

You, dear Prime Minister, showed me the meaning of this proverb during the G7 summit in Japan last year. You brought us to your hometown of Hiroshima, the place where you have your roots and which has deeply shaped your life and leadership. Many of your relatives lost their life when the atomic bomb razed Hiroshima to the ground. You have grown up with the stories of the survivors. And you wanted us to listen to the same stories, to face the past, and learn something about the future.

It was a sobering start to the G7, and one that I will not forget, especially at a time when Russia threatens to use nuclear weapons once again. It is heinous. It is dangerous. And in the shadow of Hiroshima, it is unforgivable

The above video of that segment of the speech gives a better idea of the subtle way she closely associated in her rhetoric the words "once again" with the phrase "shadow of Hiroshima" while focusing on what Russia is doing, to make it sound like it was Moscow behind the past atrocities.

Via dpa

Russian media not only picked up on the woefully misleading comments, but the Kremlin issued a formal rebuke of Von der Leyen's speech as well:

In response to von der Leynen's remarks, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the European Commission president of making "no mention whatsoever of the US and its executioners who dropped the bombs on populated Japanese cities."

Zakharova responded on social media, arguing that von der Leyen's assertions on Moscow's supposed intentions to employ nuclear weapons "is despicable and dangerous" and "lies."

Some Russian embassies in various parts of the globe also highlighted the speech on social media, denouncing the "empire of lies" and those Western leaders issuing 'shameful' propaganda and historical revisionism.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/24/2023 - 13:15

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Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Via Middle East Eye,

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a secondary schoolgirl…



Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Via Middle East Eye,

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a secondary schoolgirl to 18 years in jail and a travel ban for posting tweets in support of political prisoners, according to a rights group.

On Friday, ALQST rights group, which documents human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, revealed that the Saudi Specialised Criminal Court handed out the sentence in August to 18-year-old Manal al-Gafiri, who was only 17 at the time of her arrest.

Via Reuters

The Saudi judiciary, under the de facto rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has issued several extreme prison sentences over cyber activism and the use of social media for criticising the government.

They include the recent death penalty against Mohammed al-Ghamdi, a retired teacher, for comments made on Twitter and YouTube, and the 34-year sentence of Leeds University doctoral candidate Salma al-Shehab over tweets last year.

The crown prince confirmed Ghamdi's sentence during a wide-ranging interview with Fox News on Wednesday. He blamed it on "bad laws" that he cannot change

"We are not happy with that. We are ashamed of that. But [under] the jury system, you have to follow the laws, and I cannot tell a judge [to] do that and ignore the law, because... that's against the rule of law," he said.

Saudi human rights defenders and lawyers, however, disputed Mohammed bin Salman's allegations and said the crackdown on social media users is correlated with his ascent to power and the introduction of new judicial bodies that have since overseen a crackdown on his critics. 

"He is able, with one word or the stroke of a pen, in seconds, to change the laws if he wants," Taha al-Hajji, a Saudi lawyer and legal consultant with the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, told Middle East Eye this week.

According to Joey Shea, Saudi Arabia researcher at Human Rights Watch, Ghamdi was sentenced under a counterterrorism law passed in 2017, shortly after Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince. The law has been criticised for its broad definition of terrorism.

Similarly, two new bodies - the Presidency of State Security and the Public Prosecution Office - were established by royal decrees in the same year.

Rights groups have said that the 2017 overhaul of the kingdom's security apparatus has significantly enabled the repression of Saudi opposition voices, including those of women rights defenders and opposition activists. 

"These violations are new under MBS, and it's ridiculous that he is blaming this on the prosecution when he and senior Saudi authorities wield so much power over the prosecution services and the political apparatus more broadly," Shea said, using a common term for the prince.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/24/2023 - 11:30

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