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Saudi Activists’ Verdict Postponed

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

The verdict on the two prominent Saudi human rights activists Mohammad Al-Qahtani and Abdullah Al-Hamid, which was supposed to be delivered this Wednesday, January 16th, was postponed indefinitely.

The two activists are on trial for charges that include “breaking allegiance to the ruler and his successor” and “trying to impede the country’s developments.” It marked one of the rare public trials of political activists and it received considerable media and social attention, which led the activists to take the chance to call for real reforms and for holding the Interior Ministry accountable for accusations of torture and arbitrary detainment of tens of thousands. The judge played the role of the public prosecutor during most of the sessions, debating the two activists on the religious permissibility of demonstrations and on the religious duty to obey the ruler.

On Twitter, al-Qahtani announces:

@MFQatahni: The verdict hearing in #acprahr trial has been postponed until unspecified date. Presiding judge promised to let us know about it. #Saudi

Their trial started in June 2012, separately and secretly. After the first hearing the judge merged both cases. Dozens of activists attended the second hearing and live-tweeted the session, taking some photos as well, which the judge later decreed violated courtroom order and decided to close upcoming sessions. Over the course of the next few hearings, both activists refused to be tried in secret and threatened to remain silent. By the fifth hearing, the judge finally capitulated, turning it effectively into a public trial. The numbers of those attending the trials continued to grow, attracting international media and activists.

Saudi Arabia is one of the few remaining absolute monarchies in the world and has a devastating human rights record, which includes arbitrarily detaining over 30,000 people. Since the state officially imposes (its interpretation of) Sharia law, trials and hearings are expected to be religious debates of what Sharia means.

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

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