16/04/2014 Middle East Monitor: Human rights activist arrested in Saudi Arabia

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The Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia has reported that its founder, lawyer Waleed Sami Abu Alkhair, was arrested on Tuesday while attending a hearing in his trial.

Abu Alkhair entered the courtroom in the Specialised Criminal Court in Makkah on Tuesday morning to attend the fifth hearing in his trial. However, said the rights organisation, nothing was heard from him until the next day when his wife went to the court. “The authorities informed her that he had been arrested and transferred to Al-Ha’ir Prison,” said a statement by the group to Arabi21, “without giving us information on the sentencing and reason for his detention.” On February 4, 2012, the Court of Appeals in Makkah upheld a three-month prison sentence against Abu Alkhair on charges including “contempt for the judiciary”.

The human rights lawyer is also being prosecuted in another case made against him in November last year on charges including “seeking to subvert and rebel against the authorities”; “discrediting and insulting the judiciary”; “inciting international organisations against the Kingdom”; “establishing and supervising a human rights organisation without a licence and contributing to the establishment of another”; and “attempting to distort the reputation of the kingdom”. According to the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, “these charges have already been considered by the criminal court in Jeddah, which sentenced him to 3 months’ imprisonment.”

In the past, Abu Alkhair said that the Specialised Criminal Court lacks the “legitimacy and legality” required to look into his case as it was established in 2008 to deal with terrorist cases “but is being used by the authorities against activists and reformists.”

The human rights group pointed out that Abu Alkhair’s health is unstable, especially since he is diabetic. It also insists that his “peaceful activities are legitimate and legal human rights activities that do not violate any laws, nor do they warrant his persecution and arrest.” It called for “urgent action and pressure” for Abu Alkhair’s “immediate and unconditional release” as well as the annulment of his sentence. “The government should stop making baseless political accusations against him and give him his inalienable right to a dignified life and basic rights,” the group added.

Waleed Abu Alkhair is a lawyer and human rights activist and is the head of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia and a member of “Front Line Defenders”. He has been involved in cases lodged by the Saudi government against activists, reformists and human rights defenders in the Kingdom, and has been active in the media with regards to human rights. Abu Alkhair was awarded the 2012 Olof Palme Prize for his efforts in promoting human rights.

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