Case History: Mohammad Fahd Al-Qahtani
Mohammad Fahd Al-Qahtani was charged in a Saudi court on 18 June 2012 on 11 charges related to his human rights activism.
On 9 March 2013 Al-Qahtani was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment and a travel ban period equal to the period of imprisonment, to start following the completion of their sentences. The Court also dissolved ACPRA, confiscating its assets and halting its activities.
Mohammad Fahd 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.
On 5 March 2014, lawyers were refused access to human rights defenders Drs Abdulla Al-Hamid and Mohammad bin Fahad Al-Qahtani, following their commencement of a hunger strike on 3 March 2014.
Also on 5 March 2014 the verdict against human rights defender Mr Mikhlif Al-Shammari was upheld by the Special Criminal Court in Riyadh.
On 3 March 2014, Abdulla Al-Hamid was moved to a ward with allegedly poor hygiene standards, and began a hunger strike in protest as he is already in poor health. Mohammad bin Fahad Al-Qahtani was moved to solitary confinement following his commencement of a hunger strike in protest at continuously deteriorating prison conditions. Both have already had books and personal belongings arbitrarily confiscated. When lawyers for the human rights defenders tried to visit them on 5 March 2014, prison officials informed them that this was not allowed. It is reported that both human rights defenders are now in solitary confinement.
Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Abdulla Al-Hammid and Mohammad bin Fahad Al-Qahtani, as well as for that of Mikhlif Al-Shammari. Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to release the human rights defenders unconditionally and, until such a time, to ensure that their treatment in detention complies with all international standards and norms.
On 9 March 2013, Riyadh Specialized Criminal Court issued its ruling on the cases of human rights defenders Dr. Mohammad bin Fahad Al-Qahtani and Dr. Abu Bilal Abdullah Al-Hamid.
The human rights defenders also received a travel ban period equal to the period of imprisonment, to start following the completion of their sentences. The Court also dissolved ACPRA, confiscating its assets and halting its activities. This dissolution was based on an accusation of failure to obtain an official license by the organisation.
The human rights defenders, who are currently detained in Al Malaz Prison in Riyad, intend to appeal the Court's sentence, which can be done during a period of 30 days from 12 March 2013. After sentencing, the judge ordered the immediate arrest of the two human rights defenders and the dissolution of ACPRA, the confiscation of its assets and the closure of its website and social media accounts linked to ACPRA. The sentence came after ten court sessions that began in June 2012, most of which were held in secret. The trial continued in-camera until the fifth and last session, when the judge finally opened the proceedings and allowed the presence of media, lawyers and human rights activists, who attended along with members of the security forces.
The list of charges brought against Mohammad bin Fahad Al-Qahtani included taking part in the establishment of an unlicensed association; seeking to undermine state policies; providing false information about Saudi Arabia to the United Nations human rights mechanisms; inciting international organisations against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and undermining the integrity of the state.
The list of charges brought against Abu Bilal Abdullah Al-Hamid are include several accusing him of destabilizing the security of the state and also regarding his publishing information on the Internet related to his interrogation, after he reportedly pledged not to publish material for the purposes of incitement and in order to influence public opinion and fair trial.
For a full list of the charges against the human rights defender please consult the letter in the take action section of this page.
Other members of ACPRA have also been targetted and imprisoned in the last twelve months, including Mr Muhammad Saleh Al-Bejadi, a leading human rights defender and founding member of ACPRA, who is currently serving a four year prison sentence after being convicted by the Specialized Criminal Court in April 2012 on charges including "inciting demonstrations".
On 22 November 2011, Mr Suliman Ibrahim Al-Reshoudi, a well-known human rights defender and director of ACPRA, was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment and a fifteen years travel ban to start following the completion of his sentence. After a grossly unfair trial, Suliman Ibrahim Al-Reshoudi was convicted on charges including mobilizing the public against the monarchy, forming a secret organisation, financing terrorism, and money laundering. The human rights defender, aged 74 and in poor health, was released on bail while the trial was ongoing.
Front Line Defenders expresses serious concern at the harsh sentences handed down to human rights defenders Dr. Mohammad bin Fahad Al-Qahtani and Dr. Abu Bilal Abdullah al-Hamid, and views these sentences as forming part of the ongoing campaign of judicial harassment of ACPRA members, including arbitrary arrests and trials; a campaign which Front Line Defenders believes is intended to impede the peaceful and legitimate work of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.
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.
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.