17/04/2014 Front Line Defender: Saudi Arabia – Arbitrary detention of human rights defender Mr Waleed Abu Al-Khair in Riyadh

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On 15 April 2014, prominent Saudi Arabian human rights defender Mr Waleed Abu Al-Khair was arbitrarily detained, while at the premises of the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh.

The human rights defender was attending the fifth session of an ongoing trial against him at that court. Neither Waleed Abu Al-Khair’s family nor his lawyer have been informed of the reasons for the arrest.

Waleed Abu Al-Khair is a lawyer and head of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, an organisation which monitors and documents human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. The application to register the organisation as a human rights NGO was rejected. In 2012, the human rights defender was awarded the Olof Palme Memorial Fund Prize.

At 8am on 15 April 2014, Waleed Abu Al-Khair arrived at the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, and was reportedly arrested and taken to an unknown location. His wife did not learn the human rights defender’s whereabouts until 16 April 2014, when authorities at Al Ha’ir prison in Riyadh confirmed to her that he was indeed imprisoned there. The arbitrary detention appears to be unrelated to the convictions and charges against Waleed Abu Al-Khair, described below.

On 29 October 2013, the human rights defender was sentenced to 3 months in prison by a Jeddah court on charges including “organising illegal gatherings” and “insulting the judiciary”. Waleed Abu Al-Khair had been waiting to be informed of when the sentence would be carried out.

In addition, in Riyadh, the human rights defender faces charges including: “striving to overthrow the state and the authority of the King”; “criticizing and insulting the judiciary”; “assembling international organizations against the Kingdom”; “creating and supervising an unlicensed organization, and contributing to the establishment of another”; and, “preparing and storing information that will affect public security”. Several of these charges were already addressed in the first trial against Waleed Abu Al-Khair. The claims related to establishing an unlicensed organization is in reference to the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern at the arbitrary detention of Waleed Abu Al-Khair, particularly as the detention appears to be solely related to his legitimate and peaceful human rights work. Front Line Defenders has most recently raised concerns regarding the judicial harassment of the human rights defender on 29 October 2013 and 5 March 2014.

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