Publication date: 02/02/2014

The story of the Jeddah reformists is a long and ongoing one.

Activists that have decided not to sign an apology and pledge to obtain a “Royal Pardon” face a long and hefty jail sentence.

This story began on the 2nd of February 2007 when the Saudi authorities raided Essam Bassrawi’s chalet in the north of Jeddah, this led to Bassrawi and five other activists being arrested and subjected to ill treatments by the authorities. Later, a further 10 activists were arrested in Jeddah and Medina. All activists were accused of trying to form a group to assemble as oppositions to the regime. The rest of the accusations were all too broad and without much substance beyond any legal backdrop.

The 16 activists were remanded in custody without trial until February 2010 when their trial began in the Specialised Criminal Court of Saudi Arabia. On the 22nd of November 2012 the court passed a harsh judgment against all the activists which saw Dr. Saud Al-Hashimi being sentenced to 30 years in prison, along with a further 30 years international ban on travel once his sentence had been served.

In January 2012 ten of the accused activists were either given bail and/or a ‘royal pardon’. Those that chose a royal pardon had to sign a letter apologising and showing their appreciation for being granted a pardon. The activists pledged not to return to any activities in the future that would provoke the authorities, and,  if found to do so the authorities would have the right to pursue the holding charges against them once again.

While some of the activists choose the royal pardon, six choose against. Their reasoning for this was because they believe that by signing, they would be degrading their own dignity, forcing them to agree that they had committed a crime and waive their freedom of expression.

These six activists are Dr Saud al-Hashimi, accused of being the leader, Dr Musa al-Qarni, Abdul Rahman al-Shumayri, Abdul Rahman Khan, Abdullah al-Rifa’i along with ex Saudi Judge Dr Suliaman al-Rashudi. Al-Rashudi was freed on bail on the 23rd of June 2011 but later arrested on 12th December 2012 after carrying out a lecture of the Right to Protest in Islam.

We at ALQST need your support to apply pressure on the authorities to free the six activists without any terms attached. We want all charges dropped against the 16 activists, and to close the Specialised Criminal Court of Saudi Arabia which is in breach of Articles 10 (full equality to a fair and public trial), Article 11 (right to a public trial) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and Article 13 (right to a fair trial) of the Arab Charter on Human Rights. The authorities use the Specialised Criminal Court as a means to target and detain activists in Saudi Arabia.

We call for justice, more transparency and for the authorities to respect the law. To put an end to their witch-hunt against activists and to stop the authorities from attempting to silence its citizens, and deprive them of their fundamental freedoms. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers (Article 19 of the UDHR).

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