“Possession of Books” is A Crime Punishable by Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia

“Possession of forbidden books.” This was one of the charges raised against the prominent Saudi academic, reformist Hassan Farhan Al-Maliki, who has been languishing in Saudi cells since September 2017. He was arrested during the fierce campaign led by the Saudi security services against intellectuals, activists, and human rights defenders.

Al-Maliki was subjected to a number of brutal violations during which he was deprived of his most basic rights. He was subjected to brutal torture and detention in solitary confinement while depriving his family of communicating with him or accessing his case file.

Al-Maliki remained in arbitrary detention without trial until October 2018, when he was first brought to court, and he faced a series of retaliatory charges under the Saudi Terrorism Law. Since then he has been tried before the Specialized Criminal Court.

During the secret court sessions, the Saudi Public Prosecution demanded the death penalty for Al-Maliki, not for accusing him of murder or terrorizing the security of others, but for “possession of prohibited books” in his library, and for his demand for political reform and the implementation of democracy in government.

Al-Maliki’s case completely contradicts the statements of the Saudi crown prince about reform, implementing “moderate Islam” and changing the kingdom’s system, which in reality MBS policies imprisons the kingdom in the dark ages, where there is no room for anyone to express their opinion, beliefs or dreams.

According to Al-Maliki’s file, 14 charges were filed against him, all related to his exercise of freedom of opinion and expression and criticism of the policies of the ruling regimes in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

We believe that the real path to reform in Saudi Arabia is to allow religious thinkers such as Al-Maliki to express their opinions without fear of prosecution, arrest, and execution, and we reject the violation of any of his rights.

The death penalty is now being applied on many prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia, including the prominent Islamic preacher Salman Al-Odah, who is being tried on vague charges related to his statements and political stances.

Other notable detainees arrested in September 2017 include economist Essam Al-Zamil; Academic Mustafa Al-Hassan; The writer Abdullah Al-Maliki; Dozens of other clerics, including Awad Al-Qarni, Ibrahim Al-Nasir, Ibrahim Al-Faris, and many other activists, academics and aid workers, men and women, most of whom were sentenced to prison terms of varying lengths, such as Abdelrahman Al-Sadhan, whose appeal against his 20-year prison sentence was not accepted. Most of those convicted are denied their right to appeal.

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