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Saudi Judge: “The ruler has the right to do what he sees fit”

The fifth session of the ongoing trial of the two prominent human rights activists Mohammad Al-Qahtani and Abdullah Al-Hamid was held earlier today. The judge insisted in the last trial session to make it private, but the two activists firmly refused. The judge finally changed his mind and made this session public on the condition of leaving mobile phones outside the courtroom. About 45 people attended the trial to support the two activists, the majority of whom were young men. In addition, journalists from national newspapers attended for the first time. And, of course, nine policemen were stationed on every side of the courtroom.

When the session started, the public prosecutor was allowed to read an 18-page-long list of charges. The two activists said that it was unjust to allow the public prosecutor alone to read what has already been presented in previous sessions, without asking them to re-present their defenses. They said that this might have been done to influence the journalists.

Dr Al-Qahtani (on the left) and Dr Al-Hamid (on the right) via SultanAlfifi

The judge then asked Dr Al-Hamid whether he believed that protests were legitimate for either advising the ruler or achieving change. Dr Al-Hamid affirmed that position and explained that people have the right to refuse injustice, such as arbitrary detainment of over 30,000 people. The judge asked Dr Al-Hamid and Dr Al-Qahtani to prove that there are 30,000 arbitrarily detained people, and they said that they are ready to do so once the Interior Ministry opens all of its prisons.

On Twitter, those who attended the trial shared snippets from the conversation that took place inside:

من #محاكمة_حسم .. القحطاني: هل يجوز السجن بدون حكم قضائي شرعي؟. القاضي: لولي الأمر ما يراه

@thumarm: From ACPRA trial… Al-Qahtani: Is it legitimate to imprison [people] without sentences? Judge: The ruler has the right to do what he sees fit.

د. القحطاني للقاضي : الدولة لا تستطيع أن تسن قوانين تجرم المظاهرات لأنها وقعت على مواثيق أممية في حرية التعبير تشمل المظاهرات

@alabdulkarim0: Dr Al-Qahtani: The state cannot impose laws criminalizing protests because it had signed international declarations to protect freedom of expression, which includes [the right to] protest.

سأل القاضي عبدالله الحامد: هل ترى وجوب الالتزام بقرارات ولي الأمر؟.. أجاب الحامد: نعم، لأن (ولي الأمر) هو الشعب

@Alqudaimi: The judge asked Abdullah Al-Hamid: Do you think that you have to obey the ruler's commands? Al-Hamid answered: Yes, because the [legitimate] ruler is the people.

The judge said that everyone in Saudi Arabia is subject to trial, including the sons of King Abdulaziz, the founder of the absolute monarchy. The activists said that their real opponent is the Interior Minister, who is responsible for all human rights violations in prisons and challenged the judge to bring him to court. The judge did not answer.

Dr Al-Hamid (third from the left) and Dr Al-Qahtani (right) after the session. via @thumarm

The judge decided to hold the next hearing session two weeks from today, on November 24.

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