MBS once sought advice from this cleric. Now Saudi prosecutors want him executed

Sheikh Salman al-Awda, 62, is considered one of Saudi Arabia's most high-profile clerics. He was jailed in a crackdown on dissent, and faces the death penalty.

(CNN)Sheikh Salman al-Awda waited at his Riyadh home for Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It was 2012 and the charismatic preacher received the then 27-year-old prince with little fanfare.

"We didn't think the visit was a big deal," recalled Awda's son, Abdullah Alaoudh, a Washington-based legal scholar at Georgetown University. "He was just a regular prince."
Despite his obvious ambition, bin Salman was considered a political novice. His father was the governor of Riyadh and not yet king, and, in the eyes of the country's political class, he was just another member of Saudi Arabia's thousands-strong royal family. The prince who would later become known by his initials, MBS, appeared enthusiastic about Awda's ideas for change in Saudi Arabia, according to Alaoudh.
In this meeting and at least two other meetings to come -- including one in the royal court alongside the future King Salman -- Awda, who was 55 at the time, extolled the virtues of reform and inclusive governance, according to Awda's son.
Five years later, King Salman appointed his son as the Crown Prince. Three months after MBS was promoted, Awda was arrested as part of a crackdown overseen by a security agency established by the newly-anointed heir to the throne.
Awda and his son, Abdullah Alaoudh. Alaoudh is a legal scholar at Georgetown University where he regularly speaks out about his father's case.
After a year of pre-trial detention, in September 2018, Saudi Arabia's General Prosecutor presented Awda with a list of 37 charges and recommended the death penalty. This Sunday, the cleric will return to court, where the judge may decide on whether to make a ruling in the case, and if found guilty, sentenced, according to his family.
The cleric has spent nearly two years in solitary confinement, his son told CNN. For the first few months of his detention, "his legs were shackled and he was handcuffed. The prison guards used to throw his meals at him," said Alaoudh.
Awda was held incommunicado for the first six months of his arrest. When his family was finally allowed to visit him, he told them that he was frequently deprived of sleep and food, Alaoudh added.
He eventually signed documents, likely forced confessions, that he could no longer understand because of his poor menta