Saudi Arabia: Trumped up charges, including under cyber crime law, submitted against Waleed Abu Al-Khair

Waleed_and_Samar_02_06_20145On 28 May 2014, prominent lawyer and human rights defender Waleed Abu Al-Khair appeared in shackles before the Special Criminal Court in Jeddah for the seventh session of the second case against him. He is founder and director of the organisation Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA).

His wife, human rights activist Samar Badawi and diplomats from the European Union and the United States were prevented from entering the courtroom, allegedly due to security reasons.

At the hearing, the General Prosecutor submitted the charges against Waleed Abu Al-Khair to the court. They included ‘incitement of public opinion against authorities’, ‘insulting the judiciary’ ‘antagonizing international organizations against the kingdom’, ‘making false and undocumented statements with the intention of harming the reputation of the Kingdom and incitement against it’, ‘setting up and supervising an unlicensed association’ referring to MHRSA, and participation in the creation of another unlicensed organisation namely The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA).

The General Prosecutor also submitted charges under the Anti-Cyber Crime Law for preparing, storing and sending information that prejudices public order. He called on the court to impose the maximum punishment against Waleed Abu Al-Khair, prescribed by article VI of the Anti Cyber-Crime Law, of imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years and a fine not exceeding three million riyals (approximately $ 800,000) and to shut down Waleed Abu Al-Khair’s websites and email accounts pursuant to article XIII of the legislation.

During the court session the judge ruled that Waleed Abu Al-Khair is to be tried under the Terrorism law and was detained on that basis. Under the legislation an order by the Minister of the Interior is required for his release. The judge will consider the charges brought against the human rights defender and the matter was adjourned to 26 June 2014.

Waleed Abu Al-Khair was arrested following his appearance at the fifth court session on 15 April 2014 and is being detained in Al Hair prison where he was held incommunicado and has been subjected to torture. He is in poor health and is in need of proper medical treatment. (For further information on his case see GCHR previous appeals, http://gc4hr.org/news/view/645, http://gc4hr.org/news/view/637)

The GCHR expresses serious concern at the charges submitted against Waleed Abu Al-Khair and believes that they are directly related to his peaceful human rights work. It expresses concern that the Anti- Cyber Crime Law is being applied in his case and that simply operating an email account may lead to five years imprisonment. It fears that this legislation will be increasingly used to target human rights defenders.

The GCHR calls on the International community to act in defence of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.

 The GCHR urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia:

  1. To immediately and unconditionally release Waleed Abu Al-Khair and drop all charges against him;
  2. Guarantee the physical and psychological safety and integrity of Waleed Abu Al-Khair while he remains in detention and ensure he receives the medical treatment he requires;
  3. 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 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 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, threat, 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.”

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