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Rights groups warn Saudi female activist may face beheading

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Rights groups are warning that a female Shiite activist detained in Saudi Arabia since December 2015 may be beheaded along with other activists.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups have said that Israa al-Ghomgham and at least four other activists face execution for participating in 2011 Arab Spring protests in eastern Saudi Arabia’s Shiite heartland.

Human Rights Watch says al-Ghomgham is the “first female activist to possibly face the death penalty for her human rights-related work, which sets a dangerous precedent for other women activists currently behind bars.”

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday it was aware of al-Ghomgham’s case and remains “deeply concerned by the detention of activists in Saudi Arabia.”

Saudi officials didn’t respond to a request for comment on Thursday amid the Eid al-Adha holiday.