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Saudi Arabia: Human rights defender Mohammed Al-Bajadi sentenced to 10 years in prison

2015-03-11

The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced human rights defender Mohammed Al-Bajadi to ten years in prison during the sixth session of his trial on 5 March 2015. The Court ordered him to serve the first five years of the sentence and suspended the last five years. Al-Bajadi has been held in Al-Ha'ir prison since 20 March 2011.

His arrest is believed to have been triggered by his attempt to arrange an independent investigation and communications with the United Nations on the case of Sultan Al-Daees, a Yemeni prisoner, whose death was suspected to have been caused by torture while being interrogated by the general investigations department officers.

Al-Bajadi was accused of joining an unlicensed civil society organisation, defaming the country's reputation, questioning the independence of the judicial system, acquiring banned books, organising a protest by the families of the prisoners, communicating with foreign organisations, publishing what would prejudice public order via social media and writing on the Internet. He was tried at the Specialised Criminal Court without prior notification or access to his lawyers. On 10 April 2012, he was sentenced to four years in prison and a travel ban for five years afterwards. Al-Bajadi has endured several hunger strikes in objection to his mistreatment and four months spent in solitary confinement. On 15 August 2013, the Court of Appeals repealed his earlier sentences.

Al-Bajadi, a 34-year-old human rights defender, is a founding member of the Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACRPA). He was arrested repeatedly in 2005 and 2007 to 2008 for advocacy to prevent arbitrary arrests and torture.

The Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) express their utmost concern over the sentencing of Mohammed Al-Bajadi by the Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal as its jurisdiction is to deal with terrorism-related cases and should not to be used to target human rights defenders.

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

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Mohammed Al-Bajadi;
  2. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Mohammed Al-Bajadi;
  3. Guarantee the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Mohammed Al-bajadi while he remains in detention; and
  4. 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.”