Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia: Human rights defender Fadhel Al-Manasef sentenced to 15 years in prison, 15- year travel ban and fine
On 17 April 2014, the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced human rights defender and blogger, Fadhel Al-Manasef, to 15 years in jail. The charges against him include participating in protests and defaming the kingdom by communicating with foreigners and through publishing articles on the Internet.
In addition to the prison sentence a 15-year travel ban, to begin after his sentence, was imposed on Fadhel Al-Manasef and he was ordered to pay a fine of 100,000 riyals ($26,700) according to the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. As reported by his lawyer, the sentencing is based on charges relating to incitement and participation in protests, writing articles against state security and publishing them online, signing an anti-government petition and contacting foreign media outlets without authorization and taking reporters to protests and giving them harmful information on the kingdom. He denies that he has committed any crime and is reportedly planning to appeal the verdict and sentence. He has been arrested on previous occasions in the past as a result of his human rights work.
The sentencing comes in the context of a crackdown by authorities on those peacefully exercising their right to freedom of opinion and belief particularly in political, social and religious debate. For example the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) issued an appeal on 16 April 2014 following the detention of prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair (for further information see http://gc4hr.org/news/view/637). The GCHR expresses serious concern at the restrictions imposed by the authorities on basic human rights, including the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and belief. It believes that the sentencing of Fadhel Al-Manasef constitutes a direct attempt to hinder his human rights work and is solely related to such work.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against Fadhel Al-Manasef;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Fadhel Al-Manasef;
- 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 GCHR respectfully reminds you 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, recognises 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): “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.”