Saudi Arabia: Waleed Abu Al Khair - 1 Year of Arbitrary Detention for Defending the Rights and Freedoms of his Compatriots


Today marks a year of arbitrary detention of the Saudi lawyer and human rights defender, Waleed Abu Al Khair. His family launches a Twitter campaign at 6pm advocating for his release.

On 6 July 2014 the Specialised Criminal Court sentenced Waleed Abu Al-Khair to 15 years of imprisonment and to a 200,000-riyal fine in accordance with Article 21 of the law on crimes of terrorism. Amongst others, he was accused of: "hurting the state legitimacy," "disturbing public order and diminishing the judiciary," "publicly defaming in the judiciary and discrediting Saudi Arabia by alienating international organisations against the Kingdom," making statements and releasing documents "to harm the reputation of the Kingdom," and of being part of an unauthorised association, being its chairman and speaking on its behalf.

"All these acts fall under the rights and freedom of opinion, expression and association of Mr. Abu Al Khair," said Radidja Nemar Regional Legal Officer for the Gulf at Alkarama. "What he did was merely using his rights and freedoms peacefully as a citizen and as a lawyer and human rights defender. His advocacy for human rights should not be prosecuted as terrorist crimes but protected as fundamentals right by the Saudi authorities."

The Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh was set up in 2008 to try terrorism cases, but the court is increasingly used to try peaceful dissidents and rights activists on politicized charges and in proceedings that blatantly violate the right to a fair trial. Previously Alkarama sent several urgent appeals and communications to the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (SR HRD) as well as the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD). So far, Saudi Arabia has not taken into account the calls from different UN Human Rights Mechanisms asking for his release. On 10 July 2014, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time, Navi Pillay expressed her concern in a public release about the arbitrary arrest, trial and detention of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, Waleed Abu Al-Khair.

Alkarama will continue advocating for his release in front of UN Special Procedures and wholeheartedly joins the #WaleedAbuAlkhairOneYearPrison campaign, in full support of the courageous struggle of Waleed and his wife Samar Badawi, for the freedom of their compatriots.

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