Publication date: 06/10/2021

ALQST has learned that on 5 October 2021 the Court of Appeal in Riyadh upheld the sentence passed on humanitarian activist Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, on 5 April 2021 by the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh, of 20 years in prison followed by a 20-year travel ban.

ALQST notes that al-Sadhan’s trial was marred by gross violations of the international guarantees of a fair trial, including holding the hearings in camera. Al-Sadhan was tried, moreover, under Saudi Arabia’s flawed Counter-Terrorism and Anti-Cybercrime Laws, which have both been used repeatedly to suppress freedom of expression. He faced trumped-up charges such as “preparing, storing and sending material prejudicial to public order and religious values”, on the basis of peaceful comments posted on his Twitter accounts.

Earlier, in February 2021, al-Sadhan was told that no charges were being brought against him and he would soon be released. On 3 March 2021, however, he was suddenly put on trial.

The Saudi authorities had arrested al-Sadhan on 12 March 2018 from his place of work at the Saudi Red Crescent headquarters in Riyadh without informing him of the reasons for his arrest or producing an arrest warrant. He was then taken away to an unknown location, and for nearly two years his family were left without any information as to his whereabouts or safety.

After 23 months of enforced disappearance and no news about his fate, he was allowed for the first time to have a phone call with his family. During the call al-Sadhan said he was being held in Al-Ha’ir Prison, but he gave no details of his state of health or general situation. After that phone call al-Sadhan was denied any further contact with his family for more than a year, until 22 February 2021.

ALQST’s Acting Director Nabhan Alhanshi commented: “The Saudi authorities are doing their best to spread a state of fear and intimidation among activists, and even those who stand in solidarity with them. Court rulings like these make clear beyond all doubt that the Saudi authorities do not want any opinion or voice to be heard that is contrary to, or different from, their own views, and that voicing such opinions is a crime that can cost you 20 years of your life.”

ALQST therefore calls on the Saudi authorities to drop all charges against Abdulrahman al-Sadhan and release him immediately and unconditionally.

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