[JURIST] A well-known female human rights activist was detained Tuesday by government authorities in Saudi Arabia. Samar Badawi was detained [AI report] and interviewed by Saudi prosecutors, allegedly for her involvement in managing a Twitter account that campaigned for the release of her former husband, a Saudi lawyer who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for activism. In 2012 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton awarded Badawi the International Woman of Courage Award for her activism. A spokesperson for the Saudi Interior Ministry denied that Badawi was arrested, stating that she was interrogated [NYT report] at the request of a former prosecutor. After Badawi’s detainment, human rights advocacy organizations called for her immediate release [HRW report] and denounced the condition of human rights in Saudi Arabia. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], Badawi was released on Wednesday, contingent upon her participation in an investigation session with the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution.
Saudi Arabia’s justice system has drawn international criticism for alleged human rights abuses in recent months. Earlier this month Saudi Arabian officials announced that the government executed 47 prisoners convicted of terrorism charges [JURIST report], including al Qaeda detainees and a prominent Shiite cleric who rallied protesters against the government. In November a Saudi Arabia court sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death [JURIST report] for apostasy; or abandoning his Muslim faith. In November Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported that Saudi Arabia has executed a record 151 people in 2015 [JURIST report], the highest number since 1995. In 2014 the total number of executions carried out was 90. AI said that almost half of all the executions carried out in 2015 were for offenses that are not considered “most serious crimes” under the international human rights laws. Saudi Arabia also reportedly continues to impose the death sentence on individuals under the age of 18, violating child human rights laws. In September a group of UN human rights experts urged authorities [JURIST report] in Saudi Arabia to block the execution of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted of involvement in the Arab Spring protests when he was 17.