Saudi Arabia increases prison sentence for human rights lawyer

Saudi Arabia increases prison sentence for human rights lawyer

[JURIST] A Saudi judge on Tuesday sentenced prominent human rights lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair to an additional five years in jail [AI press release, PDF] after he refused to show remorse for “showing disrespect” to authorities and creating an unauthorized association. Abu al-Khair is the founder of the watchdog group Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. Last year, Abu al-Khair was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in jail on charges that included breaking allegiance to Saudi King Abdullah [BBC profile]. On Tuesday the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh gave Abu al-Khair a five-year suspended sentence and a fine of USD $53,300, banned him from leaving the country for a further 15 years after his release and shut down all of his websites.

Saudi Arabia’s justice system has drawn international criticism for perceived human rights abuses in recent years. Last month a Saudi 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 Saudi Arabia from the UAE. In October 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 arbitrary 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. Saudi Arabia has also faced sharp criticism for its high number of executions. In September two experts from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Saudi Arabia to implement an immediate moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST report] following an increase in executions, with a significant number of the executions completed by beheading. In July then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navy Pillay, expressed deep concern over the harsh sentences and detention of peaceful human rights advocates [JURIST report] in Saudi Arabia in recent months. In February JURIST Guest Columnist Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch argued that a new Saudi Arabian terrorism law was a vague, catch-all document [JURIST op-ed] that can—and probably will—be used to prosecute or jail anyone who criticizes the Saudi government and to violate their due process rights along the way.