Saudi Human Rights Lawyer and Activist Jailed for 15 Years for Free Speech Under New “Anti-Terror” Law

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 11.14.53 AMBack in April, I published a post titled, Saudi Arabia Passes New Law that Declares Atheists “Terrorists.” In it, I highlighted an article from the UK Telegraph which noted:

In a string of royal decrees and an overarching new piece of legislation to deal with terrorism generally, the Saudi King Abdullah has clamped down on all forms of political dissent and protests that could “harm public order”.

The organization said the new “terrorism” provisions contain language that prosecutors and judges are already using to prosecute and convict independent activists and peaceful dissidents.

Concerns that this law would be used to silence dissent and crackdown on basic human rights were apparently well justified, as the Wall Street Journal reported today that a Saudi court has sentenced human rights lawyer and activist Waleed Abu Alkhair to 15 years in prison for “inciting public opinion,” i.e., effectively utilizing free speech. The WSJ reports that:

A Saudi court on Sunday sentenced prominent human rights lawyer and activist Waleed Abu Alkhair to 15 years in prison followed by an equally long travel ban on charges such as “insulting the general order of the state and its officials” and “inciting public opinion.”

Until he was arrested in April while on trial in Riyadh, Mr. Abu Alkhair, founder of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA), has been a vocal critic of the government and called for major reforms in the kingdom including a constitutional monarchy.

The organization that he founded released a statement on Sunday night saying the latest sentence against him is “the price that Waleed Abu Alkhair has been expecting as a result of his peaceful demands and defense of human rights.”

The activist was convicted on charges of a new controversial antiterrorism law that was passed in February amid criticism by international human rights groups that the new law would be used to silence peaceful dissent.

“Saudi authorities have never tolerated criticism of their policies,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement in March, “but these recent laws and regulations turn almost any critical expression or independent association into crimes of terrorism.”

I tend to not focus my criticism on other nations due to the severe injustices being committed by my own country, but since Saudi Arabia is such a close U.S. ally, and also what is essentially a despotic Medieval Kingdom with highly suspicious links to the 9/11 attacks, I make a frequent exception in this case. No other nation exemplifies the immorality and hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy as does our relationship with Saudi Arabia. For more on this topic, I suggest reading my post from last month: America’s Disastrous Foreign Policy – My Thoughts on Iraq.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country in the region confronting a population entirely fed up with egregious corruption and an autocratic political structure. Kuwait is another geopolitical tinderbox about to explode. Al Jazeera reports that:

Kuwaiti police have fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of protesters in the capital demanding the release of Musallam al-Barrak, an opposition leader, and a purge of corrupt judges.

More than 2,000 people marched on Sunday from Kuwait City’s Grand Mosque after evening Ramadan prayers and into the old market, where police broke up the demonstration.

A picture was circulated on social media of activist Abdulhadi al-Hajeri in the back of an ambulance in a blood-soaked garment. 

Hadeel Bugrais, a human rights activist , told the AP news agency that Hajeri was wounded when a tear gas canister hit him in the head. 

The protesters are demanding the release of Barrak, who was detained in an investigation into allegations he insulted the judiciary. 

Barrak revealed documents he alleges prove huge sums of illicit financial transfers were made to senior officials, including judges.

Barrak, who draws support from some of Kuwait’s powerful tribes, was sentenced to jail for insulting the emir in 2013.

We are currently living in one of the most interesting times in human history as we witness the transformation of society away from centralized, bureaucratic structures, into decentralized, networked organization. It’s imperative that each and every one of us does everything he or she can to make this revolutionary transition as painless as possible.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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  1. Our “allies” – isn’t it wonderful!

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