Saudi court upholds 15 years’ jail for rights lawyer

Waleed Abulkhair

Waleed Abulkhair

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) – An appeals court in Saudi Arabia has upheld a 15-year jail term for a human rights lawyer who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, a watchdog said Wednesday.

The Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal, which hears terrorism cases, confirmed on Sunday the latest verdict against Waleed Abulkhair, said the Gulf Center for Human Rights.

Abulkhair was convicted last July on a series of charges including “inciting public opinion” but the last five years of the sentence were initially suspended.

In January another court ordered Abulkhair to serve the full 15 years of his sentence, a ruling upheld by the latest decision.

The Gulf Center for Human Rights, which has offices in Beirut and Copenhagen, said Abulkhair was transferred on February 4 from a prison in his home city of Jeddah to one in the capital Riyadh.

“It’s believed that his refusal to recognise the legitimacy of the trial court, in addition to not giving an apology to the court, were the reasons behind his recent transfer,” the centre said on its website.

Abulkhair was the lawyer for Saudi blogger Raef Badawi who is serving 10 years in jail and has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam.

He received the first 50 lashes on January 9 but subsequent weekly sessions have not been carried out. His case has sparked worldwide outrage.

A Norwegian parliamentarian nominated Badawi and Abulkhair for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

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