Saudi Arabia: already bad in 2016 for human rights defenders but continues in 2017

February 3, 2017

 

Nadhir Al-Majid is a well-known 40-year-old writer and teacher who has published many articles in various Arabic newspapers and electronic websites.

On 18 January 2017, the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh held its hearing in the presence of Nadhir Al-Majid, who was sentenced to seven years imprisonment followed by seven years of a travel ban in addition to a fine. Reports have confirmed that the writer was alone during the hearing and not accompanied by his family or his lawyer. He was taken immediately after the verdict to Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh. There are fears that the authorities will refuse to officially deliver a copy of the verdict to him or his family, which might prevent them from seeking an appeal of the sentence at the Court of Appeal. The Public Prosecutor directed many charges against Al-Majid including failing to obey the ruler, participating in demonstrations, writing articles supporting protests (dating back to the year 2007), in addition to having contact with correspondents of foreign news agencies – namely Reuters, AFP, and CNN.

He was previously jailed on 13 April 2011 after he was arrested and his electronic equipment was confiscated. He was beaten, kicked and ordered to stand for hours and then placed in solitary confinement for five months. He was then placed in a cell with convicted drug dealers and weapons traders. The reason for his arrest is related to his writings, including an article entitled “I protest, I am a human being” which supports the right to demonstrate. He was released on 27 June 2012. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the prison sentence of Nadhir Al-Majid is solely related to his work in defence of human rights.

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Saudi Arabian human rights defender Essam Koshak has been detained since 8 January 2017 for his online activism.

On 8 January 2017, Essam Koshak received a phone call from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Mecca, summoning him to al-Mansour police station. On arrival, at 5pm the same day, he was interrogated by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP) about his Twitter account, which he uses to highlight human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, including the detention of human rights defenders and activists. During the first three days of interrogation, his request to have his lawyer present was denied. On 12 January, Essam Koshak’s detention was extended by four days and his lawyer was finally allowed to be present during his interrogations. He was transferred on the same day to Mecca General Prison where he is currently being held. Essam Koshak is a computer engineer and human rights activist who uses social media to call for reform and respect for human rights in Saudi Arabia.

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In the meantime the organization ALQST – through Samar Badawi [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/13/saudi-arabia-arrest-of-human… ] – draws attention to their “Human Rights Situation in Saudi Arabia 2016. Annual review” (for the full report: https://t.co/ACWlRfOFRu – for inquiries, yahya.i.assiri@gmail.com). 

The report contains a chapter on Human Rights Defenders describing several cases in more detail. It states that “Many of the political prisoners in Saudi Arabia are known to be prisoners of conscience. A large number of them have been swept up in the Authorities’ so-called War on Terror, but are in fact being held for their peacefully held and expressed political or religious views. This includes calls for social reform and in defence of human rights. They are tried in the Specialised Criminal Court, which is neither legitimate nor independent of the government, and was set up for the purpose of trying terrorism cases. Most human rights defenders are also charged and found guilty under the 2014 Counter-Terrorism Law. Today the majority of Saudi Arabia’s human rights activists are in prison, on trial, or being subjected to intense harassment.

sources:

http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1479

http://www.satprnews.com/2017/01/31/urgent-action-human-rights-defender-jailed-for-online-activism-saudi-arabia-ua-2517/

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