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Saudi Authorities Continue Crackdown on Human Rights Activists

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

Saudi Arabian authorities detained yet another member of the country's defiant leading human rights organisation, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). Umar Al-Saeed is the seventh ACPRA member to be detained since the kingdom initiated a crackdown on human rights activists in 2012.

Under Saudi law, most forms of association are banned and public assembly is restricted. Organisations like the ACPRA have to get a license from the Kingdom's Interior Ministry to operate, but the ministry rarely issues licenses to human rights organisations. The monarchy does not acknowledge basic human rights like freedom of speech. Most of the legal proceedings initiated against human rights activists in the last year have been because they are involved in organisations that “don't have permission” to operate.

Umar Al-Saeed Detained 

Al Saeed was asked to appear before the investigation and persecution bureau on April 28, 2013, for his involvement with the ACPRA. He went with his lawyer, Bader Al-Harbi, who came from Kuwait to attend the session with him. After waiting for two hours, Al-Saeed was asked to enter the interrogation room alone.

Umar Al-Saeed (@181Umar) tweeted [ar]:

@181Umar: كتابة العدل في المحكمة الكبرى ببريدة رفضت طلب توكيل المحام بدر عماش الحربي وأفادوني بأن توكيل الأجنبي لا يسمح به حتى لو كان خليجي ! #حسم

Notary at the Supreme Court of Buraidah has rejected hiring Badar Ammash al-Harbi on the basis that he is not Saudi. They have informed me that hiring a foreign attorney is not permitted even if he is a GCC citizen.

He insisted on his right to a lawyer and argued with the investigator who then ordered his arrest. Online activists and human rights defenders saw this as a growing trend to suppress activists in the country.

Thumar Al-Marzouki (@thumarm) tweeted [ar]:

@thumarm: سجن عمر السعيد عضو جمعية #حسم .. لن يثني الشباب ولن يرهبهم عن مواجهة و رفض إستبداد الدولة وقمع أجهزتها الأمنية، عمر جزء من كل، ليس النهاية

Imprisoning Umar Al-Saeed, ACPRA member, won't discourage youth or terrorize them from defying the country's tyranny and the repression of its security agencies. Umar is part of a whole, it's not the end

Waleed Abualkhair (@abulkhair) tweeted [ar]:

@abulkhair السعيد اعتقل لأنه رفض التحقيق دون محامي ود.الخضر اعتقل لأنه رفض المحاكمة دون حضور النساء يبدو أنهم قد سأموا مسرحية الاعتقال وفق القانون

Al-Saeed was arrested because he refused investigation without a lawyer. al-Khudar was arrested because he refused the barring of women from his trial. Apparently, they have given up on carrying out arrests according to legal procedures.

Authorities now after the Union for Human Rights

Mohammad Ayed Al-Otibi, one of the founding members of the Union for Human Rights, a human rights organization recently established in the country, was also summoned for interrogation on April 28. His cofounders Abdullah Al-Atawi and Mohammed Abdullah Al-Otaibi accompanied him to the bureau of investigation and persecution and were surprised to learn that they would be interrogated as well. Mohammad Abdullah Al-Otaibi appeared before the bureau on April 29 and Abdullah Al-Atawi on April 30.

Mohammad Ayed Al-Otibi, was accused of establishing an association without permission. He was asked to re-appear on Wednesday. He requested more time to find a lawyer but the investigator rejected his request.
Mohammad Abdullah Al-Otaibi was also accused of establishing an association without permission and creating websites on the Internet for it.

Another member of the Union, Abdullah Al-Harbi was summoned by the bureau of investigation and persecution later. He appeared before the bureau on April 30, along with Abdullah Al-Atawi. Both were accused of establishing an association without permission. The investigators offered to drop the charges against Abdullah Al-Harbi was in exchange for him leaving the association, but he rejected the offer.

The Union for Human Rights, published a satatement [ar] claiming that the establishment of their union is legal and protected by international and Arab laws.

None of the charges against these four men relates to an internationally recognizable crime, and the irony is that it was precisely because of their attempt to formally register the organization that the authorities clamped down on them, said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

Trial of Eisa Al-Nekhaifi

On April 29, the trial of Eisa Al-Nekhaifi, the Saudi activist who became known for the Southern border case resumed. Al-Nekhaifi, was jailed for his solidarity with the families’ sit-in in the southern region of Saudi Arabia; who were forced to leave their homes upon the clashes between Saudi forces and the Houthis and never allowed back.

The judge, Omar Al-Husain, sentenced Al-Nekhaifi to three years in prison, slapped him with a four-years travel ban, and ordered the “expropraition” of all of his accounts and pages on social networks. This is the second time a Saudi judge issue a verdict involving social media accounts of a Saudi citizen. (The first was issued against the ACPRA last month.)

Saudi Arabia has a distressing human rights record which includes arbitrarily detaining over 30,000 people. 

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

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