Saudi Arabia: GCHR condemns brutal 20-year sentence for Internet activist Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) condemns in the strongest terms the brutal sentence of 20 years in prison imposed on Internet activist Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan, in violation of his right to freedom of expression.

In a hearing held on 05 April 2021, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh sentenced Al-Sadhan to 20 years in prison, followed by a 20-year travel ban after his release. The SCC is the terrorism court that Saudi Arabia established in 2008 to put on trial members of terrorist groups but has since been used to imprison human rights defenders and activists. Any appeal would have to be lodged within 30 days.

The charges are related to his peaceful activities on Twitter which he used to post tweets that were expressing his views on citizens' public affairs.

On 12 March 2018, Al-Sadhan was arrested at the offices of the Saudi Red Crescent Society in Riyadh, where he works as an aid worker. He was not brought to trial until two years later. For more information see:

This verdict comes after the US Department of State published on 30 March 2021 its “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” with extensive reporting on the deterioration of human rights in Saudi Arabia.

The report quoted a statement on 07 September 2020 by UN Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, who called the final verdict a “parody of justice” in relation to the murder trial of those accused of murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In its report, the US Department of State also mentioned the case documented by GCHR in which Internet activist Amani Al-Zain was arrested in Jeddah on 17 May 2020. The report states, “Al-Zain was arrested after she apparently referred to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as ‘Abu Munshar,’ meaning ‘father of the saw.’” She remains in prison.

GCHR calls on the US and UK governments and international mechanisms including UN system to take immediate actions to ensure the release of Al-Sadhan and all other detained human rights defenders, in addition to other activists.

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

  1. Overturn the sentence against Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan, drop all charges against him, and unconditionally free him, along with all detained human rights defenders, activists and prisoners of conscience;
  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 activists, journalists and 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.