2/10/2013 IHR saudi arabia: Saudi Human Rights Lawyer Arrested: Waleed Abu al-Khair

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Saudi Human Rights Lawyer Arrested: Waleed Abu al-Khair

**UPDATE** On Thursday, October 3rd 2013 Waleed Abu al-Khair was released on bail by authorities in Saudi Arabia. It is unclear if he is facing additional charges to those he has been on trial for since June 2013.

A prominent human rights lawyer has been arrested by Saudi authorities in Jeddah today, October 2nd 2013.

Waleed Abu Al-Khair was arrested at around 2pm by authorities in Jeddah and accompanied by an officer to a police station where he tweeted confirming his arrest.

Activists say that Prince Khaled bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud issued an order for the arrest following a gathering of activists at the home of Waleed Abu Al-Khair.

Waleed Abu Al-Khair is a human rights lawyer and founder of the Saudi Arabian Human Rights Monitor (SAHRM), a human rights organisation whose website has been blocked in the Kingdom. In 2012 he received the Olof Palme award for “for his strong, self-sacrificing and sustained struggle to promote respect for human and civil rights for both men and women in Saudi Arabia.”

Al-Khair began hosting gatherings at his home after authorities closed ‘Bridges Café’ in Jeddah. The gatherings were known as ‘Smood’ and would involve discussions on topics including political, religious and human rights. The Smood has been attacked on social media and television networks by conservatives, who called for a strong response from authorities to shut it down.

Al-Khair has defended the Smood, stating that he offers a place where freedoms of belief, expression and association are respected. Something, he says, that is not respected by authorities in Saudi Arabia.

Since June 2013, Al-Khair has been on trial because of his human rights work. Charges against him include “offending the judiciary,” “communicating with foreign agencies,” “asking for a constitutional monarchy,” “participating in media [programs] to distort the reputation of the country,” and “incitement of public opinion against the public order of the country.”

Al-Khair is due to be brought before the prosecutor for interrogation tomorrow, October 3rd 2013.

Today’s arrest is a continuation of the harassment Waleed Abu Al-Khair has suffered for years. His human rights work is vital in a country where freedoms are severely restricted.

The Institute for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia calls on Saudi authorities to drop all charges against Waleed Abu Al-Khair and release him immediately. We call on the international community to publicly demand authorities respect the rights of all citizens and grant them the freedom to freely associate and express their opinions.

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