Saudi Arabia slaps rights activist with lengthy jail term

Saudi Arabia slaps rights activist with lengthy jail term
Mon Jul 7, 2014 09:27:41

A Saudi court has sentenced a prominent rights lawyer, described by Amnesty as a prisoner of conscience, to 15 years behind bars, his relatives said in a statement posted online.

The Twitter message said that Waleed Abulkhair, who has had many run-ins with the authorities over his activities and for allegedly insulting authorities, was also banned from travelling abroad for 15 years and fined 200,000 riyals (almost $54,000), the court declared the verdict on Sunday.

Abulkhair, who has been under arrest since April 16, contested the verdict in court, according to the tweet.

Abulkhair was ordered to be put under arrest as he attended a fifth hearing, accused of insulting authorities in the despotic kingdom.

His wife Samar Badawi announced his arrest the next day and said the court did not give her a reason for detaining him.

Rights group Amnesty International at the time called for his immediate release, saying he was being clearly punished "for his work protecting and defending human rights."

"He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally," said Amnesty's Said Boumedouha.

He called the lawyer's detention "a worrying example of how Saudi Arabian authorities are abusing the justice system to silence peaceful dissent."

Abulkhair is already facing other trials in cases linked to his activities.

In October, the opposition figure was sentenced to three months in prison for "insulting the judiciary" and a petition he signed two years ago criticizing the authorities.

That same month he was briefly held for setting up an "unauthorized" meeting place where pro-reform activists gathered, but was later freed on bail.

In June 2012, he was accused of "disrespecting the judiciary... contacting foreign organizations and signing a petition demanding the release of detainees," some of whom were being held for suspected terror links, his wife said at the time.


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