Two prominent reformists and human rights activists in Saudi Arabia are on trial. Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid are being prosecuted for “breaking allegiance to the ruler and his successor” and “trying to impede the country’s developments”.
Mohammad al-Qahtani is an economics professor and was recently named in Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers 2012 list. Abdullah al-Hamid was first detained in 1993, and is probably the longest-standing reformist in the country. They are calling for a constitutional monarchy, protection for political dissent, and an end to human rights violations. Both are founding members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRAHR), the country's most active independent human rights advocacy group. Founded in 2009, the organisation has remained unlicensed since then, and continues to document human rights violations to file local lawsuits against the interior ministry and report the violations to the UN Human Rights Council. Several ACPRAHR founders are being prosecuted, and one of them has already been sentenced to prison after a secret trial.
al-Qahtani and al-Hamid's 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 eighth hearing was attended by ninety people, including local and international journalists.
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.
29 Dec – Final Hearing: Saudi Activist Trial Hearing Concludes
15 Dec – 9th Hearing: Saudi Judge: Bashar al-Assad is the Outcome of Democracy
9 Dec – 8th Hearing: Saudi Activist: “Public Trial Reveals Their Mentality and Lack of Evidence”
1 Dec – 7th Hearing: Saudi Activist: “This is an inquisition, prosecuting us for our opinions”
24 Nov – 6th Hearing: Saudi Judge: “What applies to the ruler, does not apply to those he rules”
10 Nov – 5th Hearing: Saudi Judge: “The ruler has the right to do what he sees fit”
6 Oct – 4th Hearing: Saudi Arabia: Secret Trial Continues, So Does Activist Refusal
8 Sept – 3rd Hearing: Saudi Arabia: Reformist Figures Refuse Secret Trial
1 Sept – 2nd Hearing: Saudi Arabia: Trial Challenged by Prominent Human Rights Reformists
- ACPRAHR website
- Amnesty International Saudi Arabia Human Rights Brief
- Human Rights Watch on Saudi Arabia
Please contact Global Voices Middle East and North Africa Editor Amira Al Hussaini or Global Voices Saudi Arabia author Osama Khalid if you have links or story ideas, or want to add to this page's resource list.