Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, the founder of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights, has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
The 31-year-old Saudi human rights activist acted as a legal representative for nine other members of his organization, “Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights” (ACPRA) — locally known as HASEM.
To date, 11 HASEM members have been sentenced to a combined 92 years in prison. Seven of them are in jail while four are waiting for their prison terms to be implemented.
The Specialized Criminal Court tried Al-Shubaily. The court was created in 2008 and tries suspected terrorists and human rights activists.
The activist was tried and sentenced under the repressive counterterrorism law and faced a number of different charges which included “communicating with foreign organizations” and providing information to Amnesty International. He also faces an eight-year travel ban, during which time he also is forbidden from writing on social media.
“Abdulaziz al-Shubaily’s conviction is an attempt to put the final nail in ACPRA’s coffin. The organization has borne the brunt of the authorities’ relentless attacks on civil society over the past few years. After shutting ACPRA down three years ago, the authorities have prosecuted and jailed its founding members one by one in a merciless bid to suppress criticism of Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record,” said James Lynch, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International.
“The authorities have once again proven that they are determined to conceal the truth about Saudi Arabia’s dire human rights record. The authorities must urgently ensure his conviction is quashed and they should not detain him,” he added.
Al-Shubaily was called for interrogation in November 2013 and told that if he agreed to stop his activism, the case against him would be dropped. He was formally charged in July 2014.
The charges piled against him were:
- Calling for demonstrations
- Accusing the security forces of repression, torture, assassinations, and enforced disappearances
- Describing the Saudi Arabian political system as a repressive police state
- Insulting the judicial authorities and
- Working for an unlicensed organization
More charges were brought against him during the trial.
Freedom of expression really has no place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Several rights activists, bloggers, and journalists have been sentenced to jail for being “outspoken” or allegedly inciting religious hatred in Saudi Arabia, according to non-profit Human Rights First Society.
Perhaps one of the most famous victims of Saudi repression is Raif Badawi, a writer and secular activist, who was arrested on a charge of "insulting Islam through electronic channels" in 2012. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, to be carried out over 20 weeks.
“Saudi Arabia does not allow political or human rights associations,” noted the Human Rights Watch World Report 2013. “In December 2011, the authorities denied the Justice Center for Human Rights a license, and did not reply to requests for a license by the Saudi Human Rights Monitor, which registered in Canada in May.”
Saudi Arabia, ruled by the conservative royals of the Saud clan, is not a place with much freedom. But while the world knows much about the lack of rights of the Saudi women and the lavish lifestyles of the royalty, the fate of the rest is usually overshadowed.
Men, though allowed to move about freely, drive and interact openly, are also chained down by the kingdom’s strict policies. Freedom of expression is a big no-no irrespective of gender.