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Saudi Arabia: Prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair’s sentence increased to 15 years in prison

2015-01-12

On 12 January 2015, the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh held a session in which it sentenced prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair to serve 15 years in prison; previously this had been 15 years in prison, with five years suspended, but the court removed the suspension and ordered the full sentence should be served. Throughout the hearing his legs were shackled.

On 6 July 2014, he had received the primary sentence of 15 years in prison, with five years suspended, and a travel ban of equal duration as well as a fine of 200,000 SR. (approximately $53,300).The Public Prosecutor has appealed the primary sentence at the Court of Appeal in Riyadh, which said that he should serve the entire 15 years sentence, as he had not retreated or apologized to the court.

It’s worth mentioning that Abu Al-Khair explained in a letter he delivered to the Court on 26 June 2014, he does not recognize the legitimacy of this court and has continued on his position during this last hearing. The jurisdiction of the Specialised Criminal Court is to deal with terrorism related cases, but it is increasingly being used to target human rights defenders.

Multiple trumped up charges were brought against him including 'antagonizing international organisations against the kingdom', relating to his engagement with international human rights mechanisms including the UN system and 'incitement of public opinion against authorities' , ‘setting up and supervising an unlicensed association’ referring to MHRSA, and “Preparing, storing and disseminating what would prejudice public order.”

Waleed Abu Al-Khair is a prominent human rights lawyer. He founded, and is Director of, the NGO Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA). He was awarded the human rights Olof Palme Prize in 2012 for his “strong, self-sacrificing and sustained struggle to promote respect for human and civil rights for both men and women in Saudi Arabia.”

The Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Araba (MHRSA) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) express concern about the increase of Waleed Abu Al-Khair’s sentence and the ongoing targeting of him, which are solely a reaction to his peaceful and legitimate activities in defense of citizens’ rights in the kingdom.

The MHRSA and GCHR urge the authorities in Saudi Arabia to: 

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Waleed Abu Al-Khair;
  2.  Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Waleed Abu Al-Khair, ;
  3. Guarantee the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Waleed Abu Al-Khair while he remains in detention;
  4. Ensure that he receives the medical attention and special diet he requires and ensure that his wife is allowed to visit him;
  5. 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 MHRSA and the GCHR respectfully remind the authorities in Saudi Arabia 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, recognizes 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 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, threat, 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.”