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Saudi human rights defenders under fire

The following statements were originally published on gc4hr.org on 10 January and 11 January 2017.

Sentenced to prison

Human rights defender Abdulaziz Al-Shubaili has been sentenced to eight years in prison, following a hearing on 10 January 2017 by the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in Saudi Arabia. The court was asked to examine the notes sent by the Court of Appeal in relation to the case, for which Al-Shubaili had already been sentenced. He will reportedly appeal the new verdict.

After deliberation, the SCC decided to issue a new verdict against Al-Shubaili which is essentially the same as the previous one issued on 29 May 2016. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, followed by another eight years banned from writing on social media, in addition to a travel ban of eight years to begin after the sentence has been served. The court ignored all the notes presented by the human rights defender, who had decided earlier not to recognise the court because he believed that "human rights and people that have views should not be tried and convicted of terrorist offenses as the Saudi government is doing now using the Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing."

In a hearing which took place on 29 May 2016, the SCC in Riyadh previously sentenced Al-Shubaili to eight years in prison followed by another eight years of a travel ban to start after he serves his sentence. In addition, the court banned him from writing any more.

Al-Shibaili was accused of many charges including allegedly publishing a statement calling for demonstrations; accusing judges of dishonesty and human rights violations; and preparing, storing and sending data affecting public order. As well he was sentenced for participating in an unauthorised association, the Civil and Political Rights Association in Saudi Arabia (ACPRA), and his contribution to the drafting of its statements, as well as failing to comply with the judicial decision to dissolve ACPRA.

Al-Shubaili is a principal member of the ACPRA who participated in the defence team on behalf of many of his fellow members of ACPRA. Also he has used social media networks to call for reform and defend people's rights in Saudi Arabia.

Again the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) condemns in the strongest terms the new verdict against Abdulaziz Al-Shubaili. GCHR believes that the ruling, which was issued after a mock trial that did not follow international standards and due process, is part of an ongoing trend adopted by the authorities, which includes the prosecution, arrest, torture, and judicial harassment of human rights defenders in the Kingdom.

GHCR calls on the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:

  • Immediately release all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia whose detention is a result of their peaceful and legitimate work in the promotion and protection of human rights.
  • Immediately release all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia whose detention is a result of their peaceful and legitimate work in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Two human rights defenders arrested

According to reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), two human rights defenders were arrested in Saudi Arabia as part of the ongoing attacks on human rights defenders in the country.

On 08 January 2017, the Criminal Investigation Department in Mecca summoned human rights defender Essam Koshak. On arrival he was arrested and detained in Al-Mansour police station and ordered to appear before the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution in Mecca the next day. On 09 January 2017, his detention was extended and he was not released on bail as yet.

On 05 January 2017, human rights defender Ahmed Al-Mshikhs, co-founder of Al-Adalah Centre for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, was summoned by the Criminal Investigation Department in Al-Qatif. On arrival he was arrested and detained in Al-Qatif police prison. On 08 January 2017 he was transferred to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution in Al-Dammam. He is held at the moment in Al-Dammam general prison.

Reports confirmed that no charges have been directed against either defender but it is believed that their online activities are the reason behind their arrest.

Both Essam Koshak and Ahmed Al-Mshikhs are well-known for their peaceful human rights activities and their online activism.

GCHR expresses grave concern at the arrest of Essam Koshak and Ahmad Al-Mshikhs. GCHR believes that these arrests are solely due to the two men exercising their legitimate and peaceful right to freedom of opinion and freedom of expression and conducting their work in the field of human rights.

GCHR urges the Saudi Arabian authorities to:

  • Release immediately and without any conditions Essam Koshak and Ahmad Al-Mshikhs;
  • Stop all types of harassment against Essam Koshak and Ahmad Al-Mshikhs in order to ensure that they are able to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression and to post comments online and in other public domains without fear of reprisals; and
  • Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

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