Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia -Human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair arrested for meeting with reformists
Update: On 3 October 2013, human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al Khair was released on bail.
On 2 October 2013, Saudi authorities detained prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair for setting up an alleged “unauthorized” gathering (diwaniah) in his house where he held meetings with reformists.
Abu Al-Khair will be interrogated on 3 October by the Public Prosecutor of Jeddah city, who will decide whether to release him on bail or keep him in custody.
On 26 September 2013, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) issued an urgent action in relation to the two trials which he currently faces.
The GCHR expressed concerne about irregularities in the ongoing trial of Abu Al-Khair, which continued on 9 September 2013 at the Criminal Court in Jeddah. This was the tenth hearing of the trial, which opened on 4 June 2012, and appears to be designed to interfere with his human rights activities.
The charges facing Abu Al-Khair include contempt of the judiciary, accusing a judge of corruption, and an attempt to discredit the Kingdom by giving misleading information to foreign human rights organizations. The next hearing will be held on 29 October 2013.
Also on 24 September 2013, the Criminal Investigation Administration in Jeddah summoned Abu Al-Khair to appear before its office. He went there the next day and they told him that he has a hearing at the Specialized Criminal Court in Jeddah, at 8:30am on 6 October 2013. He was not informed about the nature of the hearing about the nature of the hearing or any alleged charges.
The GCHR believes strongly that Waleed Abu Al-Khair is targeted solely for his peaceful and legitimate human rights work. The GCHR sees the on-going harassment of the human rights defender as a part of a trend of reprisals adopted by the Saudi government and directed toward all those who are co-operating with international mechanisms including the UN system.
The GCHR calls the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:
1. Drop all charges against Waleed Abu Al-Khair and release him immediately and unconditionally as the GCHR believes the charges are related only to his legitimate human rights work;
2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in KSA 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 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 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, which provides that “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.”