17/8/2014 The Cairo Post: HRW condemns beating and dragging Saudi activist charged with terrorism

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By: Aya Samir

CAIRO: The Human Rights Watch organization issued a statement Saturday concerning Saudi lawyer and activist Waleed Abu al-Khair , who was detained and charged for calling for human rights and is the first to tried by the anti-terrorism law system, according to his wife, Samar Badwy.

The statement issued by HRW condemned what happened to Abu al-Khair as he was transferred by force to a prison 1,000 kilometers away from his family, which is considered a violation to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners issued 1955 stating that “If a detained or imprisoned person so requests, he shall, if possible, be kept in a place of detention or imprisonment reasonably near his usual place of residence.”

The activist prisoner was transferred without informing his family, or allowing him to contact them within the first 24 hours, which is considered another violation.

When Abu al-Khair knew that he was going to be transferred for the sixth time, he refused to cooperate with the authorities, according to the statement issued by HRW. They detained him using force after beating him on his back and while he was chained, dragged him from prison, according to Samar’s statements to HRW.

Waleed Abu al-Khair is a human rights activist and lawyer born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

He established the Monitor of Human Rights organization in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA) in 2008. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director said in the statement “Abu al-Khair shouldn’t be in prison at all, much less hustled from one prison to another almost a thousand kilometers away from his family.”

The statement described Abu al-Khair as “a thorn in the side of the government”. Since 2011, he has been facing charges including insultingjudicial bodies, communicating with foreign organizations and jeopardizing state stability.

Last July, a Saudi court sentenced Abu al-Khair to 15 years in prison, along with another15-year ban on traveling abroad after the prison term is served and a 200,000 Saudi Riyal fine. The court said that Abu al-Khair was addressing human right violations in Saudi Arabia, in a way that made him lose his peaceful activism, however, Abu al-Khair refused the trial, its final verdict and even refused to receive a copy of the court’s document, according to HRW’s report.

Samar Badwy, Abu al-Khair’s wife, is also a human rights activist in Saudi Arabia. She has been exerting many efforts demanding international interference to help release her husband. “By Today, my husband spent 4 months in jail of the court’s 15 years verdict. He is the first to be tried with the anti-terrorism law in Saudi Arabia,”Badwy wrote on the wall of Monitor of Human Rights Organization’s Facebook group Saturday.

Amnesty International has issued a statement last July, shortly after the sentence condemning using the new issued anti-terrorism law against human rights activists, as Said Boumedouha, the Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International said that”Waleed Abu al-Khair’s conviction on charges relating to national security is entirely unjustified and provides alarming evidence that the Kingdom’s new anti-terrorism law is going to be used to repress peaceful political dissent.” He said that this sentence is a clear warning to anyone who is planning on speaking against the government.

The Saudi cabinet approved the anti-terrorism law December 2013, according toAl-Sharq Al-Awsat to control all crimes concerning terrorism, as it specified that the law aims to control “all the crimes that aim towards the destabilization of the state”.

Abu al-Khair’s case is not the first concerning human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, as Raif Badawi, an internet blogger, was sentenced to 10 years in jail, 1,000 lashes and to pay a 1 million Riyal fine for insulting Islamand setting up a liberal web forum, according to BBC last May.

Al- Madina Saudi newspaper said Sunday that the court approved to jail a business woman for a month and to whip her 50 times for shouting at the “Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice”, calling them liars.

The newspaper added that the businesswoman owns a café, which was targeted by the religious committee and was searched. The committee reported it found unlawful items inside the café, but refused to reveal their nature.

Later, the committee tried to arrest some of the employees inside the café, but the businesswoman started yelling at them and called them “liars that ruined the country,” which represents, to them, a great insult that deserves a severe punishment.

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