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Saudi Arabia: Jaber Al Amri Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison for Posting a Youtube Video
On 12 April 2014, Jaber Al Amri was arrested by officers of Al Mabahith in both uniform and civilian clothing who did not present him with a warrant. After being detained for three months incommunicado and having been deprived of his fundamental rights for a year, Jaber Al Amri was sentenced in May 2015 to seven years in prison followed by a seven-year travel ban and a fine of 50000 Riyals for posting a video on Youtube in which he calls for the release of his brother from prison. Convinced that Jaber Al Amri’s detention is arbitrary, on 13 February 2017, Alkarama seized the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) requesting it to issue an opinion on his case.
A week before his arrest, Jaber Al Amri published a video in which he called on the authorities to release his brother, sentenced in 2002 to three years in prison and who was still being detained at the time. In the video, he also criticises the Saudi government for prosecuting individuals who exercise their basic rights to freedoms of opinion and expression under the guise of terrorism. For freely expressing himself, Jaber Al Amri was arrested and denied the right to communicate with his lawyer and family for the first three months of his detention. The denial of his right to legal counsel was imposed throughout his detention and he was, at no point until the beginning of his trial, presented to a judge to allow him to challenge the legality of his detention or to be informed of the charges against him. In May 2015, at the end of a secret trial where he was not allowed a lawyer, Jaber Al Amri was sentenced to seven years in prison for the crimes of “inciting rebellion against the ruler; stirring up dissent; and turning people against the state and calling it repressive” as well as “producing, storing and sending a video clip prejudicial to public order”. For his Youtube video, Jaber Al Amri was prosecuted on the basis of the 2014 Anti-terrorism Law before the Specialised Criminal Court, competent over matters of terrorism and State security, which is not composed of judges but of a panel nominated by the Ministry of Interior.
Deeming his deprivation of liberty arbitrary, on 13 February 2017, Alkarama sent a request to the WGAD asking for an Opinion to be issued on the case of Jaber Al Amri. Alkarama also asked that the WGAD calls for his immediate release as Jaber Al Amri cannot be detained for having solely expressed his opinion peacefully. Lastly, Alkarama called on Saudi Arabia to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a human rights instrument guaranteeing the most fundamental rights, which the Kingdom has still not ratified despite being a member of the Human Rights Council, elected for the fourth time in 2016.
“With regards to freedom of opinion and expression, the Saudi authorities have instilled a systematic undermining of these fundamental freedoms by prosecuting individuals publicly critical of the government or those calling for reforms,” explained Julia Legner, Alkarama’s Gulf Regional Officer. “It is this very pattern that has been continuously denounced by the WGAD, but that the authorities still refuse to address,” she continues.
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