Saudi Arabia Jails Human Rights Activists But Releases Corrupt Elites

Almost all the detainees held as part of an anti-corruption campaign were released without a proper trial. Meanwhile, two men were convicted for human rights advocacy.


Despite all the social and economic reforms introduced under Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (aka MBS), Saudi Arabia is as hostile when it comes to human rights as ever.

In November, MBS ordered the arrests of hundreds of elites, including princes, businessmen and ministers, over ill-gotten wealth. Almost all of these corruption suspects were recently released — in exchange for cash, property and other assets.

So much for the anti-corruption crackdown.

At the same time, the same authorities sentenced two men, Mohammad al-Oteibi and Abdullah al-Attawi, to long prison terms.

Their crime?

Human rights advocacy.

Human Rights Watch reports Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court convicted al-Oteibi to 14 years in prison and al-Attawi to 7 years on January 25, 2018, "solely for their human rights advocacy."

Not even one of the alleged “crimes” listed in the charge sheet, HRW adds, resembles recognizable criminal behavior.

Both of them formed the Union for Human Rights in 2013. However, they were unable to obtain a license to run the group since the country didn't allow non-charity activism organizations at the time.

Despite Saudi Arabia introducing a law that would essentially allow Union for Human Rights in 2015, the two men remain incarcerated.

“Mohammad bin Salman’s reputation is tarnished by his justice system’s relentless campaign against government critics and human rights activists,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said of al-Oteibi and al-Attawi's arrests .

There's a long list of activists and clerics who remained jailed, despite MBS' promises to reform Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Salman al-Awda, a prominent Saudi reformist cleric was reportedly hospitalized after five months of solitary confinement without charge or trial. He was taken into custody for tweeting about peace and tolerance amid Saudi Arabia's diplomatic fallout with Qatar last June.

Meanwhile, elites, who were accused of criminal activities such as corruption, were let go without proper trials just because, collectively, they paid nearly $107 billion for their freedom.

Is this how Muhammad bin Salman plans to reform Saudi Arabia?

Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters

View Comments

Recommended For You