Three Saudi tribesmen have been sentenced to death for refusing to leave their homes to make way for the government's ambitious project called Neom Mega City.

The three men identified as Shadli, Ataullah, and Ibrahim al-Huwaiti belong to the Huwaitat tribe. The tribe is being forcibly ejected to make way for the $500 billion project. The three men were arrested in 2020 for opposing the eviction.

They were handed death sentences on October 2 this year by Saudi Arabia's Specialised Criminal Court, per a report in The Mirror. Shadli al-Huweiti's brother was shot dead by Saudi authorities in April 2020 for protesting the government's eviction orders.

The community has reported an escalation in actions being taken by the government to drive them out of their houses for Neom. Two other members of the tribe were recently given 50-year prison terms and 50-year travel bans for resisting the move.

Meanwhile, a UK-based rights group called Alqst has called for the release of the three men. "The family members were detained in 2020 for opposing eviction to make way for #Neom. We condemn the sentences and call for their release," the group said in a tweet.

"These shocking sentences once again show the Saudi authorities' callous disregard for human rights, and the cruel measures they are prepared to take to punish members of the Huwaitat tribe for legitimately protesting against forced eviction," added Alqst's Abdullah Aljuraywi.

Adel al-Saeed, vice president of the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, said that death sentences are being used "in an unprecedented way to include all forms of objection to government decisions."

Neom is the most ambitious project taken up by Saudi Arabia. The project was announced in 2017 and is being funded by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), where the Crown Prince sits as chairman.

Neom is essentially a planned city that would cover more than 10,000 square miles of the country's Tabuk province near its borders with Jordan and Egypt. The city will also host the Asian Winter Games in 2029.

G20 summit
Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Nicolas Asfouri/ AFP