[JURIST] Saudi Arabia has arrested two human rights advocates since the beginning of the year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [press release] Wednesday. The reason Essam Koshak, 45, and Ahmed al-Musheikhis, 46, were arrested has not been released, and HRW called on Saudi Arabia to disclose the reasons for their detention. If they have not committed any recognizable crime HRW claims they should be released immediately. HRW reports that Saudi Arabia courts have convicted at least 25 human rights activists since 2011 and that many faced sentences as long as 10 or 15 years. According to HRW, most faced broad, catch-all charges designed to criminalize peaceful dissent, such as "breaking allegiance with the ruler," "sowing discord," "inciting public opinion," "setting up an unlicensed organization" and vague provisions from the 2007 cybercrime law.
Throughout the years, Saudi Arabia [BBC profile] has denied all allegations of arbitrary arrest, unfair detention, egregious prison conditions and other human rights violations. Saudi courts have cited article 26 of the Kingdom's Basic Law of Governance as the sole legal recourse of the human rights prisoners. Saudi Arabia's justice system has drawn international criticism for perceived human rights abuses in recent years. Last November the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released a report [JURIST report] renewing its call for Saudi Arabia to release nine human rights activists jailed for participating in activities promoting and protecting human rights. In January 2015 a Saudi Arabian judge sentenced prominent human rights lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair to an additional five years in jail [JURIST report] after he refused to show remorse for "showing disrespect" to authorities and creating an unauthorized association. In December 2014 a Saudi Arabian court ordered [JURIST report] the criminal cases against two women's rights activists be transferred to a special tribunal for terrorism. The women were arrested for attempting to drive into the country from the UAE. In October 2014 a Saudi Arabia Court sentenced three lawyers to between five and eight years in prison for criticizing the justice system [JURIST report] on Twitter by accusing authorities of carrying out unauthorized detentions. Earlier that month Amnesty International issued a report claiming that Saudi Arabia persecutes rights activists and silences government critics [JURIST report], especially in the years since the Arab Spring in 2011.