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Saudi Arabia: Sentence of human rights defender Fadel Al-Manasef reduced by one year following reconsideration by the Court

2014-09-12

On 9 September 2014, the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, reduced the prison sentence of human rights defender, blogger and founding member of Al Adalah Center for Human Rights, Fadel Al-Manasef, by one year following reconsideration of the sentence by the Specialized Criminal Court of Appeal. He has been in detention since his arrest on 2 October 2011.

Fadel Al-Manasef was originally sentenced on 17 April 2014 to 15 years in prison, a 15 year travel ban to commence on his release and a fine of of SAR100,000 (approx. €19,300). The prison term and travel ban have now both been reduced to 14 years but the fine remains the same.

The charges against him related to incitement and participation in protests, writing articles against state security and publishing them online, signing an anti-government petition and contacting foreign media outlets without authorization and taking reporters to protests and giving them harmful information on the Kingdom. For further information see previous Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) appeal dated 19 April 2014 http://gc4hr.org/news/view/640

The reduction in sentence was based on two main observations received from the Specialized Criminal Court of Appeal. Firstly, that there was no evidence for the accusation that the human rights defender was involved in the establishment of a prohibited human rights organisation. The Judge agreed with this observation and dismissed the accusation. Secondly, it was argued that the sentence was too harsh.  As a result the judge decided to reduce the sentence.

The sentence is therefore now based on four charges namely, attempting to compromise the authority of the King and working against national security and stability; producing, storing and disseminating information prejudicial to public order and mores in contravention of the Anti Cyber Crime Law; communicating with foreign media in an attempt to exaggerate news of abuse by the government and to disrupt the citizens of Saudi Arabia; and signing a memorandum containing falsities directed at the government.

Fadel Al-Manasef has 30 days from 9 September to appeal the new sentence.

While the GCHR welcomes the reduction in the sentence, it expresses serious concern at the charges against Fadel Al-Manasef and his on-going detention which are solely related to his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities. It further expresses serious concern at the use o judicial harassment against human rights defenders in an attempt to silence them and to hinder their work.

The GCHR urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to: 

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against Fadhel Al-Manasef;
  2. Guarantee the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Fadhel Al-Manasef;
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters“, and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present declaration.”