- For defenders
- How can I help?
Saudi Arabia: Trial of human rights defender Dr Mohammad Al-Qahtani
On 18 June 2012, human rights defender Dr Mohammad Al-Qahtani was brought before the Riyadh Court of First Instance to face eleven criminal charges related to his human rights work.
Mohammad Al-Qahtani is a prominent human rights defender and a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), a leading human rights organisation in Saudi Arabia.
The list of charges brought against Mohammad Al-Qahtani include: taking part in the establishment of an unlicensed association; seeking to undermine state policies; providing false information about Saudi Arabia to the UN human rights mechanisms; inciting international organisations against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and agitating them to criticise the civil, political, economic, social and cultural pillars of the country; mobilising public opinion against the security institutions and senior officials by accusing them of human rights violations including killings, torture, and enforced disappearances; dubbing the Government of Saudi Arabia as a police state; accusing the judiciary of injustice; questioning the integrity and religion of the senior clergy in the country; insulting state officials and questioning their integrity; seeking to create strife and schism in society; rebelling against the ruler and his heir apparent; and preparing and storing information detrimental to public order. If convicted, Mohammad Al-Qahtani could face up to 30 years in prison as a result of these charges. Moreover, he has been banned from travelling since 18 March 2012.
The trial of Mohammad Al-Qahtani is part of an ongoing campaign of prosecution of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. Dr Abdalla Al-Hamid, a founding member of ACPRA, is also facing charges in relation to his human rights work and Mohammad Al-Qahtani is a member of his defence team. A week prior to his trial, while attending court proceedings as part of Abdalla Al Hamid's defence team, Mohammad Al-Qahtani was ordered to present himself before the same court to face the charges listed above. In addition, the president and founding member of ACPRA, Dr Abd Al-Karim Yousuf, is currently being investigated by the public prosecution and it is feared he may face similar charges as those brought against Mohammad Al-Qahtani. The trials of Dr Al-Qahtani and Dr Al-Hamid have been adjourned until 1 September 2012.
Front Line Defenders believes that the ongoing campaign of judicial harassment of ACPRA members, along with the targeting of other human rights groups in the country - including arbitrary arrests and trials - are intended to put an end to their peaceful and legitimate human rights work at a time of increased reports of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.