Saudi Arabia: Urgent appeal sent by Alkarama to the UN regarding the public prosecution's request to execute academic Awad Al-Qarni
Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and a number of other United Nations (UN) actions regarding the concerns of the death sentence sought by the Saudi Public Prosecution against academic Awad bin Mohammed Al-Qarni (68).
Alkarama strongly condemns the use of the judiciary as a political tool to assassinate opinion leaders and activists in Saudi Arabia through death sentences, on charges related to the exercise of the right to opinion, expression and peaceful dissent, such as the Saudi prosecution's demand for an unfair sentence against prominent reformist preacher Awad Al-Qarni.
The Saudi prosecutor had called for the death sentence of Awad al-Qarni after convicting him of a range of charges including owning a Twitter account and using WhatsApp to spread news described as "hostile" to the kingdom.
Al-Qarni's arrest came within the framework of a large-scale arrest campaign launched by the Saudi state security apparatus in conjunction with the announcement of the blockade of Qatar, and despite the announcement of an end to the crisis and Gulf reconciliation, innocent victims are still afflicted about repression and abuse with no signs in sight of the imminent end of their suffering.
Not only did the Saudi authorities persecute Al Qarni and violate his rights, but they portrayed him in the media they controlled as a dangerous preacher. In fact, "he was an important and respected intellectual with a strong social media presence including 2 million followers on Twitter," according to a report in the Guardian.
The prosecutor has asked the Saudi criminal court specializing in state security cases to sentence prominent law professor Awad Al Qarni to death for various alleged crimes including, according to court documents seen by The Guardian, possession of a Twitter account that contradicts the government and the use of WhatsApp to disseminate information deemed "hostile" to the kingdom.
On 9 September 2017, several members of the Saudi forces, some in civilian clothes and others in uniform and heavily armed, raided Dr Awad Al Qarni’s house at night. They searched the house showing their gun to his family members and causing terror and panic among the children and women. Then, they confiscated all computers and telephones and even children's games. Finally, Mr Al Qarni was taken to an unknown destination.
The son of the professor Awad Al Qarni, Nasser Awad Al Qarni, who succeeded to leave Saudi Arabia, published a series of videos detailing the arrest, persecution, torture, repression and intimidation to which his father and family were subjected.
Al Qarni's family did not hear from him for several weeks following his arrest until he was allowed to make a brief phone call and inform them that he was being held in Dhahban prison in Jeddah. There again, he was cut off from the outside world for about six months. After being held incommunicado for six months, his family was allowed to visit him and see that his health had deteriorated.
Alkarama has consistently followed cases of arbitrary detention in Saudi Arabia and unfair sentences against prisoners of conscience and activists, including the case of Dr. Awad Al-Qarni.
In September 2022, Alkarama, other human rights organizations and Saudi and foreign activists launched a human rights campaign to demand the release of prisoners of conscience in the country and to denounce the unjust sentences recently issued by the Saudi authorities against a number of prisoners of conscience, including detainees whose sentences have expired, in flagrant violation of the principles of justice and international laws and conventions.
Alkarama has repeatedly expressed the deteriorating human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and has submitted several reports and complaints to United Nations human rights bodies and special procedures. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has issued several opinions confirming the arbitrary nature of the detention and prosecution, but the Saudi Arabian authorities have responded with increased repression and disregard at the expense of their obligations under international human rights law. In several cases, they have gone so far as to resort to reprisals against victims and/or their families for filing complaints with the United Nations.