Saudi regime intensifies repression of writers, activists in 2017: HRW
“Saudi Arabia is trying to silence and lock away anyone who doesn’t toe the official line or dares to express an independent view on politics, religion, or human rights,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at HRW, said.
She exclaimed, “When will the Saudi authorities understand that talking to the media or an international organization should not be a crime?”
On January 18, Saudi Arabia’s so-called Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) handed down a seven-year sentence and a seven-year travel ban to prominent 39-year-old writer Nadhir al-Majed.
He faced charges of participation in 2011 protests in Eastern Province, communication with international media and human rights organizations, and the publication of a series of articles supporting the protests and calling for an end to discrimination against Shia Muslims in the country.
Local human rights activists told Human Rights Watch that Majed has not been permitted to call his family or receive visits since mid-January this year.
On January 10, Saudi officials sentenced activist Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, 31, to eight years in prison, and issued against him an eight-year travel ban and an eight-year ban on using social media after his release.
The charges brought against him included “incitement against public order,” “insulting the judiciary,” “describing the ruling Saudi state as a police state,” and “participating in an unlicensed association.”
The SCC brought additional charges of “being in touch with outside agencies and sending them reports…, which were behind two reports issued by Amnesty International” against Shubaily in March 2015.
Shubaily is reportedly a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), which seeks to enforce political reform. The activist remains free on bail while he appeals the ruling.
Another activist, Essam Koshak, 45, has been held without charge since January 8 for actively campaigning for human rights on social media.
Local activists told HRW that the Criminal Investigation Department summoned him for questioning in Mecca on January 8, without giving a reason, and detained him when he arrived. He is in the Mecca General Prison.
On January 5, Saudi authorities detained Ahmed al-Musheikhis, 45, and held him until February 1, then released him. Musheikhis is a founding member of the Adala Center for Human Rights based in Eastern Province.
“Saudi Arabia repeatedly demonstrates its complete intolerance toward citizens who speak out for human rights and reform,” Whitson said.
Saudi Arabia has faced protests since 2011, when a wave of uprisings and revolutions hit dictatorial Arab monarchies in the Middle East and North Africa.
Human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized Britain and the United States for giving the Saudi regime an easy pass on perpetrating human rights abuses on its own people.