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Saudi Activist Trial Hearing Concludes

This post is part of our Special Coverage: Reformists on Trial in Saudi Arabia

The last hearing session of one of Saudi Arabia's rare public trials of two prominent human rights activists Mohammad Al-Qahtani and Abdullah Al-Hamid was held today [Dec 29, 2012] at the Riyadh Criminal Court. In the last hearing session, the defendants were questioned by the judge, and today, the questioning continued. The number of attendees was about 70, including three women. Correspondents from Al Jazeera, Sky News and some national newspapers were also present, well, besides Global Voices!

At the beginning of the session, Dr. al-Hamid gave the judge copies of his books, including one titled “Words are more powerful than bullets,” saying that some human rights activists have been convicted for possessing this book. The judge then said that he had a report that he wanted to discuss with the two activists. Dr. al-Qahtani said he needed to have a look, and he discovered that the content of the file was previously published by an anonymous Twitter user who claimed that Saudi Civil and Political Rights and Association (ACPRA) members had ‘suspicious’ ties:

التقرير الذي أتى به #القاضي_حماد_العمر في #محاكمة_حسم هو التقرير الذي نشره معرف الداخلية قبل مدة في #تويتر وقد ذكرت بأن ما ورد فيه كذب صريح.

@MFQahtani: The report that Judge Hamad al-Omar brought to court today was published a while ago by an Interior-Ministry-operated Twitter account, and I said it was full of lies.

When Dr. al-Qahtani asked the judge about the source of this report he said it was an anonymous “philanthropist,” and that he found it on his disk.

al-Hamid (right) handshaking a handicapped supporter after the session via @alajmi01

The two activists then continued by citing the ways they have been interrogated with. Dr. al-Hamid said that before the interrogation started, a secret police agent came to his house and said that they had got a “huge file” against him and he advised al-Hamid to remain silent. Dr. al-Qahtani said that the interrogator asked him whether he had ties with an “outcast” royal family member, when he insisted that the interrogator name a person, he said Talal bin Abdulaziz, a prince who played a major role in the Arab-nationalist oppression in the 60s. Dr. al-Qahtani said that this proves that the royal family is fighting, and that state institutions are being used in the battle.

When the judge asked the two activists about their refusal to obey the king when he appointed the former Interior Minister a crown prince and whether they consider this legitimate disobedience, al-Hamid asked the judge to give him two-week period to provide written answers for questions that the ruling is likely to be based on. He aslo said:

أنت متعود يجيك المتهم خايف يحاول يتنصل. حنا ما عندنا شيء نخبيه

You are used to seeing accused people fearful and trying to get away with what they had done. We have nothing to hide.

Furthermore, Dr. al-Hamid asked the judge to hold an additional hearing session so he can “provide eleven new evidences” to defend himself and to prove that the polices of Interior Ministry are responsible for causing counter-violence, but the judge refused and insisted that this had to be the last hearing session.

When Sky News correspondent left the courtroom to film a report, a policeman arrested him and the cameraman and they were transferred to a police station. They were asked to provide a governmental license to report the public trial, even though they were already licensed journalists. They were released after a few hours after signing a pledge that they will not film within the court building, even though they did not do such a thing.

The next session in which the verdict will be announced is January 16.

This post is part of our Special Coverage: Reformists on Trial in Saudi Arabia

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