Publication date: 17/10/2022

ALQST calls on the Saudi Arabian authorities to release human rights activist Mohammed al-Rabiah, who is being retried in the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) despite recently completing his prison term. Al-Rabiah has been on hunger strike since 25 September in protest over his situation. 

Although al-Rabiah’s prison term expired in late September, the Supreme Court has accepted a request filed by the Public Prosecution to retry him, meaning that his case will now be transferred back to the SCC. 

Mohammed al-Rabiah was arrested on 15 May 2018, during a spate of arrests of women human rights defenders including Loujain al-Hathloul and Aziza al-Yousef, and was sentenced on 20 April 2021 by the SCC to six and a half years in prison, with two years suspended, on charges relating to his peaceful activism and defence of women’s rights. He has also been subjected to brutal torture in detention. 

This is by no means the first time in Saudi Arabia that a prisoner has been retried or kept in detention beyond the end of their sentence, even though holding prisoners beyond the expiry of their prison terms violates the kingdom’s own domestic legislation: Article 2 of the Law of Criminal Procedure (LCP) outlaws the practice. 

Yet such abusive practices seem to be worsening recently. The latest move against al-Rabiah comes amidst an unprecedented slew of extreme sentences handed down in the Saudi courts over the past two months, as the human rights situation in the country deteriorates once again following the diplomatic rehabilitation of Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman.

Sentences passed recently have included 34- and 45-year prison terms for women’s rights activist Salma al-Shehab and Nora al-Qahtani for peaceful social media activity, and 50 years for Abdulilah al-Huwaiti and Abdullah Dukhail al-Huwaiti for supporting their family’s refusal to be forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for the Neom project. Most recently, on 2 October, three further al-Huwaiti tribe members, Shadli, Ataullah and Ibrahim al-Huwaiti, were sentenced to death for publicly opposing the evictions. This recent pattern of judicial sentencing raises concerns that al-Rabiah may face further similarly harsh punishment.  

ALQST’s Head of Monitoring and Communication, Lina Alhathloul, comments: “By putting Mohammed al-Rabiah back on trial, it seems the Saudi authorities are on a vindictive quest to punish him still further. He has already completed an unfair sentence for his brave activism, and should now be released immediately and unconditionally, and those responsible for his torture held accountable.”

ALQST calls on the Saudi authorities to put an end to such arbitrary practices, and to immediately and unconditionally release al-Rabiah as well as all prisoners of conscience detained for peacefully exercising their fundamental rights.

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