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Saudi Arabia: Peaceful Protesters to Be Flogged, Judge Rules

Last September, we wrote about an unprecedented 24-hour sit-in for families of uncharged prisoners. The protesters were finally tricked and arrested. Last night, Saudi journalist Iman al-Qahtani published the court ruling on 19 of those protesters (here, here, here, and here), publishing copies of the rulings against them.

The rulings, which read more like a religious fatwa (edict), included suspended 50-90 lashes and varying jail sentences for 14 of them, including the person who brought food for the protesters. The sentences are to be executed if they participate again in any protest. The other five are to be tried later.

Imprisonment without charges is the top human rights issue in Saudi Arabia. Independent human rights organization Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association's estimate of the number of uncharged prisoners is over 30,000, while the government-sponsored estimate is 4,396. Many were arrested in the massive, post-9/11 “war on terrorism”.

A copy of one of the judge's rulings against the protesters

A copy of one of the judge's rulings against the protesters. Photo shared on Twitter by @ImaQh

The sit-in took place on September 23, 2012, which marked Saudi national day. Family members of uncharged prisoners took the chance to raise awareness about their case, with a sit-in outside the al-Turfiya prison, near Buraidah. According to Reuters, 60 men, 45 women and 16 children participated in the protest.

During the sit-in, and after the riot police had surrounded the protesters, and prevented food and water, one young man managed to get it with food. The charges against that person was:

إعانة المتجمهرين عن طريق إحضار الطعام

Supporting the protesters by bringing food

The charges also affirmed reports that the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, also known as religious police, had participated in the crack down:

بقاؤهم في المكان أكثر من يوم رغم مناصحتهم من رجال الأمن وأعضاء هيئة الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر

They stayed in that place for more than a day, even though they were advised to leave by police men and members of the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

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