Posted 2010/7/23

Saudi Arabia: Human rights defender Mikhlif Al-Shommari remains in arbitrary detention and faces charges of “annoying others”

Mikhlif Al-Shommari

Human rights defender Mr Mikhlif bin Dahham Al-Shommari is being detained on charges of “annoying others”. On 19 July 2010, a court in Dammam city in eastern Saudi Arabia rejected the case of human rights defender Mr Mikhlif bin Dahham Al-Shommari as being out of its jurisdiction, and returned the case to the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP) in Dammam city.

As a result, Mikhlif Al-Shommari remains in detention in Dammam General Prison. Mikhlif Al-Shommari works as a pro-democracy, pro-reform journalist and writer.

Mikhlif Al-Shommari was arrested on 15 June 2010 while attending a dinner with friends in Jubail city. He had not received any notification or summons for questioning prior to his arrest. He was reportedly escorted by a heavily armed security force, a practice usually reserved for those suspected of serious crimes or act of terrorism, and was taken to Al-khober police station. On 20 June 2010 the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution registered case number 2029/255/31 against him, charging Mikhlif Al-Shommari with the offence of "annoying others" with his writings. He has been interrogated in relation to six articles he had written and published on various Saudi websites. According to his file in Dammam General Prison, where he was moved in early July, the charges against him relate to critical remarks regarding public officials which he made in the articles.

Mikhlif Al-Shommari previously worked with the government-sponsored Human Rights Commission, but left the organization due to disagreements regarding its methods of work. Since then, he has been independently campaigning and posting articles in defence of the rights of foreign workers and minorities in Saudi Arabia, and criticizing intolerance by officials and religious governmental apparatus. On 15 May 2010, Mikhlif Al-Shommari was arrested by police in the town of Al-Khobar over articles he had published attacking hard-line religious views, and was briefly detained before he was released on bail. Mikhlif Al-Shommari was previously arrested in February 2007, and detained for three months without charge following his visit to a prominent Shia’ cleric in the eastern province.

Front Line believes that the charges against, and continuing detention of, Mikhlif Al-Shommari are a direct result of his human rights activities, in particular his exercise of his right to freedom of expression. Front Line fears for the physical and psychological integrity of Mikhlif Al-Shommari.

Front Line urges the Saudi Arabian authorities to: 1.Immediately and unconditionally release Mikhlif Al-Shommari, as Front Line believes that he is being held solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights; 2.Immediately drop all charges against Mikhlif Al-Shommari as manifestly unfounded, as it is believed they are solely the result of his legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression; 3.Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mikhlif Al-Shommari in all circumstances, and ensure that his treatment whilst in detention conforms to international standards, particularly the “Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form Detention or Imprisonment”, adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988; 4.Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia can carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisal, free of all restrictions or threats to their psychological and physical security.

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