Names: Dr Mohammed Al Qahtani and Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid
Country: Saudi Arabia
In March 2014, imprisoned human rights defenders Dr Abdullah Al-Hamid and Dr Mohammed Al-Qahtani began a hunger strike in protest against their targeted mistreatment in al-Ha'ir prison in Riyadh.
Reason Behind Bars:
On 9 March 2013, Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid and Dr. Mohammed Al Qahtani, co-founders of the civil society group the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), were convicted of 12 charges by the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh including ‘Refusing to submit to the will of the King’; ‘Incitement’ and ‘Communicating inaccurate information to Foreign Entities’.
The presiding judge sentenced Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid to five years in prison for these alleged crimes, in addition to six years of a 2004 sentence, which he had not served, following a pardon (revoked on the grounds that the most recent charges represented a ‘breach’ of the conditions of his release) – bringing his total sentence to eleven years. Dr Mohammed Al-Qahtani was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. Moreover, both defendants are prohibited from travelling after the expiration of their prison sentences, for a duration equal to their prison terms, respectively. Following the sentencing,
both defendants were taken into custody and transferred to Al-Malaz prison.
In addition, the judge ordered the immediate dissolution of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), and further ordered ACPRA to stop all its activities and forfeit its assets.
The 12 charges brought against both Dr Mohammed Al Qahtani and Dr Abdullah Al-Hamid include:
"Setting up an unlicensed organisation, 'breaking allegiance to the ruler', accusing the judiciary of allowing torture and accepting confessions made under duress, describing the Saudi Arabian authorities as a police state, inciting public opinion by accusing authorities of human rights violations, and turning international organizations against the Kingdom", by sending “false information presented as facts to the official international mechanisms”
The first of these charges refers to ACPRA’s failure to secure a state sanctioned permit, despite the authorities’ refusal to grant national civil society organisations such licenses, ensuring that they operate outside the law. The last of these charges refers to the defendants’ founding role in ACPRA and ACPRA’s work with Alkarama, a regional human rights group, in the preparation of documents to submit to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
In May 2005, Dr Abdullah al-Hamid was sentenced to seven years imprisonment on charges including “showing dissent and disobeying the ruler” after making demands for political reform in 2004. He and other detainees were released after a royal pardon was granted on 8 August 2005 (since revoked, in the 2012 ruling). In 2008, he also served a four-month prison sentence for “incitement to protest” after supporting a peaceful demonstration calling for the release or fair trial of relatives who had been detained without charge or trial.
About the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA):
Founded in October 2009, ACPRA is a Saudi Arabian based non-governmental organisation which works to protect civil liberties and human rights in the country. Its mandate focuses on promoting the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and calls for an elected parliament and the creation of legal institutions to support transparency and accountability. In addition, ACPRA advocates for the adoption of laws to protect minority rights and documents human rights violations in Syria.
Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS said: "The recent clampdown on legitimate civil society groups only solidifies Saudi Arabia's unenviable position as one of worst persecutors of human rights defenders in the world."
Dr. Al-Qahtani said after the adjudication: "I consider this ruling as a badge of honor." He also warned the court that, “You cannot stop rights activists. They are like weeds; when you pull out a few, more grow back stronger and thicker…Do not underestimate the youth, there are many ready to promote justice. And the government cannot detain them all.”
Dr. Al-Hamid stated: "This trial demonstrated that the judiciary is not independent and we are proud of the imprisonment." Al-Qahtani also warned the court “You cannot stop rights activists. They are like weeds; when you pull out a few, more grow back stronger and thicker…Do not underestimate the youth, there are many ready to promote justice. And the government cannot detain them all.”
- CIVICUS highlights the escalating crackdown on civil liberties in Saudi Arabia
- Live report of the trial of Saudi Civil Rights Activists
- Saudi Arabia punishes two activists for voicing opinions
- Two prominent Saudi Arabian activists on trial in Riyadh
- Saudi Campaigners go on trial
- Send an appeal for the immediate release of both Dr Mohammed Al Qahtani and Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid via the Gulf Center for Human Rights Appeal
- Send an appeal to the Saudi Arabian authorities or your regional representatives, calling for the fair treatment and immediate release of both defendants, with Amnesty International’s urgent appeal