Friday, 11 July 2014

Join the campaign to Free Waleed Abu al-Khair

It seems there is no end to Human Rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. Waleed Abul khair is a Saudi Arabian lawyer. He is not only a human rights activist, but a specialist lawyer in that field. The fact that he is a defender of victims against Salafist clergy-sponsored and Shariah based violations of human rights perpetrated by the decadent bureaucracy and ruling dynasty is the sole reason behind the inadmissible and shocking abuses he has been subjected to. 

He was born in Jiddah in 1979. He founded the first Saudi Human Rights organization MHRSA registered in Canada in 2012. In 2007, the liberal activists released a petition demanding a constitutional monarchy by means of free elections in place of the present absolute monarchy. They were arrested in February 2007 accusing them of collecting funds for terrorism. Next year he organized a hunger strike for prisoners of conscience. (1) 

Saudi monarchy has a dirty history of repressing human rights activism. The Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA) founded in 2009 was not given permission to function by the Ministry of Interior . Two founders of ACPRA were convicted for breach of allegiance to the monarchy and disobedience, undermining the security, inciting to disturb public order by calling for demonstrations, providing wrong information to foreigners etc. including creation of an unauthorized organization.  In March 2013, Abdullah al-Hamid was awarded 10 years' imprisonment and Muhammad al-Qahtani, 11 years'. They were also put under a travel ban. The court ordered dissolution of the Association, confiscation of its property and closure of its accounts on social networks. Abdul Rahman al-Hamid, Abdullah Hamid's brother was detained incommunicado for a month and then moved to the prison in Buraydah, qassim province and is being held there without charges (2) 

Abul Khair had a role in the creation of several civic initiatives including Women's driving campaign. In 2011, he was named as one of the top 100 twitter activists with more than 40,000 followers by Forbes Middle east. Since 2010, his international reputation as a genuine representative of Arab human rights activists was viewed with jealousy and irritation by the authorities.

Raif Badawi is, by far, the most famous of Abul Khair's clients. Raif was convicted for having founded and managed the website "Free Saudi Liberals" and insulting Islam. (3)

The trial of Fowzan al Harbi, the fourth founder member of ACPRA began on 4th December 2013. On June 25, 2014, the Riyadh criminal court sentenced him to seven years in prison along with a travel ban. ACPRA members Umar al-Sa' id and Abdul Kareem Al-Khudhr were also sentenced to prison. On 8th April, Abdul Azeez al-Ghamdi was detained. On April 17, the Special Criminal Court sentenced Fadhel Maki al-Manaf to 15 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 Saudi Riyals plus the travel ban. He has been reported to have suffered torture and other ill treatment in detention. (4)

The first trial of Waleed Abul Khair was in 2011 after signing the statement denouncing persecution of reformists. On October 29, 2013, he was sentenced to three months, imprisonment by the criminal court. On February 6, 2014, the Court of Appeal in Mekka confirmed the punishment.

The Special Criminal Court in another case has now  sentenced Waleed abul Khair to 15 years in prison,a fine of 200,000Riyals and a travel ban for a further period of 15 years subsequent to his completing the prison term.The trial relating to this began on October 6th,2013. He was arrested without explanation on April 15, and was put in solitary confinement in Al-Hair jail. It is alleged that he was exposed to bright light  so as to deprive him of sleep. Then transferred to various detention centres, he is now in Briman prison, Jiddah. (5)

We request all the humanists, secularists and other supporters of human rights to call upon the authorities of Saudi Arabia to free Waleed Abul Khair immediately. There is no justification for his detention.

"The sentencing of a prominent Saudi Arabian lawyer and human rights defender to 15 years in prison has dealt a fresh blow to peaceful activism and freedom of expression in the Kingdom, said Amnesty International."

He is being punished under the new anti-terrorism law.(6)

"The Specialized Criminal Court is a security and counter-terrorism related court whose rules and procedures remain secret and which activists claim is under the direct control of the Interior Ministry. Ahead of his sentencing Waleed Abu al-Khair stated that he considered the court illegitimate and the judge to be biased and would refuse to defend himself in court. "

Waleed Abul Khair is a prisoner of conscience. He has been exercising his freedom of expression, association and assembly peacefully. He has every right to do it.

A monarchy which is nothing but an anachronism in 21st century is maintaining a judicial system which is a shame to the entire humanity. It is the responsibility of all lovers of democracy to pressurize all forces concerned to take note of the pathetic condition in to which the top oil exporting country has fallen and to act ethically and responsibly in 'International Relations'.

We request the international community to bring all possible pressure on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and demand the unconditional release of Waleed Abul Khair and all other human rights activists immediately.

 Please use hash tag : #FreeWaleed  for Twitter and Facebook 

Additional Readings:

1. How the king bluffs

2. Keeping masses ignorant 

Post Script: 

The appeals court on September 1, 2014 has confirmed the brutal punishment of  1000 lashes and 10 years' prison together with fine and bans on Raif Badawi as per the sentence imposed by the earlier court on May 7,2014. 

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