Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Saudi Arabia ramps up clampdown on human rights activists

"A prominent Saudi Arabian human rights defender was brought before a Riyadh court on Monday on 11 activism-related charges in the latest example of what Amnesty International called a “troubling string of court cases” aimed at silencing human rights campaigners.

The charges against 46-year-old Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani relate to his human rights activism. They include setting up an unlicensed organization, understood to be the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) of which he is a founding member, “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.

His appearance in Riyadh’s Criminal Court is part of a series of recent trials aimed at silencing human rights activists in the Kingdom.

“The Saudi Arabian authorities’ trial of Mohammad al-Qahtani is just one of a troubling string of court cases aimed at silencing the Kingdom’s human rights activists,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“The case against him should be thrown out of court as it appears to be based solely on his legitimate work to defend human rights in Saudi Arabia and his sharp criticism of the authorities.”

The Saudi Arabian authorities have recently targeted a number of human rights defenders, both through the courts and through arbitrary measures such as the imposition of travel bans......."

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