Update: Saudi Arabia – Human rights defender Mr Waleed Abu Al-Khair’s sentence increased to 15 years in prison

waleed_abu-alkhair2_2On 12 January 2015, the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh increased the sentence against human rights defender Mr Waleed Abu Al-Khair to 15 years’ imprisonment. On 6 July 2014, the human rights defender had been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, with five years suspended, and a travel ban of equal duration, as well as a fine of 200,000 Saudi Riyal, for charges related to his peaceful human rights activities. That verdict was appealed by the Public Prosecutor who requested that Waleed Abu Al-Khair serve the entire 15 year sentence.

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.

The human rights defender was sentenced on charges of “striving to overthrow the state and the authority of the King”; “criticising and insulting the judiciary”; “assembling international organisations against the Kingdom”; “creating and supervising an unlicensed organisation, and contributing to the establishment of another”; and, “preparing and storing information that will affect public security”.

The Specialised Criminal Court has jurisdiction over terrorism-related cases. In an act of protest against the trial, Waleed Abu Al-Khair consistently refused to recognise both the court’s legitimacy and the impartiality of the judge. In his appeal, the Public Prosecutor had said that Abu Al-Khair should serve the entire 15 year sentence, as he had not apologised to the court. Following the decision of 12 January 2015, the human rights defender and his legal representatives refused to sign the court report of the trial and declined to receive the judgment or to appeal it.

For further information on Waleed Abu Al-Khair’s work as a human rights defender and the charges against him, which come in the context of systematic intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, please visit his page on the Front Line Defenders Website.

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