Saudi Arabia: Trial of Internet activist Abdul Rahman Al-Sadhan continues

30.03.21

The trial of Internet activist Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan in Saudi Arabia continues on charges related to his peaceful activities on Twitter.

On 03 March 2021, the first hearing of Al-Sadhan's trial was held before the Specialised Criminal Court (Terrorism Court) in Riyadh. He called his family the day before to inform them about the date for the hearing. His father had gone to the hearing, but was not allowed to attend, and it was held in secret. The Terrorism Court, which was established in 2008 to hear cases related to combating terrorism, has since been used to pass harsh prison sentences against human rights defenders and other peaceful activists in addition to the suppression of freedom of opinion.

After the hearing ended, Al-Sadhan's father was able to meet his son for only five minutes, after not having seen him for nearly three years of total no communication since his arrest, in the presence of a security officer. He appeared thin and greatly affected by ill-treatment, solitary confinement and complete separation from his family (he had not even been able to speak with his mother since his arrest), which has had a great impact on the deterioration of his health. He did not have a lawyer at the time of the investigation nor during the first hearing.

On 11 March 2021, at the second hearing, Al-Sadhan's father was present after he requested from the court to be a legal guardian, in addition to a lawyer appointed by the court being present. During the hearing, the list of charges in the indictment and evidence was presented, which are based on tweets published on his Twitter account and confessions that were extracted from him by torture, according to reliable local reports. The court refused to provide his father or the court-appointed lawyer with a copy of the indictment and only allowed them to read it.

Al-Sadhan used his Twitter account to post tweets that were peacefully expressing his views on citizens' public affairs.

On 17 March 2021, the third hearing was held where the defense response to the indictment prepared by his father and amended by the court-appointed lawyer was delivered. No date was set for the next hearing.

However, on 22 March 2021, another secret hearing took place. The lawyer was informed of it at the last moment and when he attended the court, the hearing was over. The Public Prosecutor presented his objections to the defense's response during the hearing. His father was unable to attend this hearing as he was not informed of it despite the fact that he was confirmed as a legal guardian.

On 25 March 2021, the fifth hearing was held, and despite his father's attempts to attend the hearing, he was not allowed in court. At this hearing, the Public Prosecution claimed that Al-Sadhan did not request the presence of a lawyer during his interrogation, which is contrary to the truth. The trial was postponed until 01 April 2021.

Background:

On 12 March 2018, plainclothes members of the General Directorate of Investigation in Saudi Arabia arbitrarily arrested Al-Sadhan without an official judicial warrant or providing any reason for the arrest. He was arrested at the main offices of the Saudi Red Crescent Society in the capital, Riyadh, where he works as an aid worker.

Al-Sadhan is a 37-year-old graduate of the Department of Business Administration at the University of Notre Dame in California. He completed his studies at the end of 2013 and returned home the following year, according to his family, due to his love for his country and a desire to contribute to building a prosperous future for everyone as one of the nation's sons.

For more information, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2466

 The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls on the Saudi authorities to:

  1. Release Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan, after dropping all charges against him, and also release all detained human rights defenders, activists and prisoners of conscience, without any conditions;
  2. Respect public freedoms, including freedom of expression, on and off the Internet, and protect the civil and human rights of all citizens without exception; and
  3. Ensure that all human rights defenders in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are able, in all circumstances, to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and without any restrictions, including judicial harassment.