Saudi court postpones trial of prominent cleric until next month
A court in Saudi Arabia has postponed until next month the trial of distinguished cleric Ayatollah al-Sheikh Hussein al-Radhi over his anti-regime comments as Riyadh presses ahead with its heavy-handed crackdown on members of the religious community.
His lawyer and human rights advocate, Taha al-Hajji, said on Thursday that the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh had adjourned the trial of the 66-year-old clergyman until August, without specifying an exact date.
Meanwhile, bloggers and activists launched an online campaign under the hashtag #الشيخ_الراضي_كلمة_حق to express solidarity with the prominent cleric and condemn the Al Saud regime’s measures against him.
Sheikh Radhi was arrested on March 21, 2016, after being surrounded by a group of Saudi police officers and militiamen in the middle of a street in the city of al-Umran.
The distinguished Shia clergyman had earlier been subjected to various forms of harassment and frequently summoned for questioning over his Friday sermons, which touched on a wide array of regional and domestic issues, including the execution of well-known Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr in early January.
Sheikh al-Radhi has also condemned Saudi’s military aggression on Yemen and called for the withdrawal of Saudi forces from Yemen.
He has asked Saudi authorities to stop meddling in the internal affairs of other countries, and respond to demands for reform at home.
The cleric has censured the classification of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement as a terrorist organization, describing its chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah as the source of pride for Arabs and Muslims.
Sheikh al-Radhi’s trial began on April 12, more than a year after his arrest. The cleric suffers from many diseases and is exposed to harsh prison conditions.
Since February 2011, Saudi Arabia has stepped up security measures in the Shia-dominated Eastern Province, which has been rocked by anti-regime demonstrations, with protesters demanding free speech, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the Saudi regime. Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism law so as to repress pro-democracy movements.