Saudi Arabia: Egyptian Doctor Receives Arbitrary Prison Sentence

Together for Justice strongly condemns the prison sentence against the Egyptian doctor Sabri Shalaby, 66, who lives in Saudi Arabia over his alleged links with a terrorist organisation.

Together for Justice considered the prison sentence as unjust par excellence and based on retaliatory political motives for a work-related dispute.

In August 2022, the Saudi Specialized Criminal Court had sentenced the Egyptian doctor to 20 years under Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism law for “expressing sympathy with a terrorist organisation” and 12 years for “joining a terrorist organisation,” referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia declared as a terrorist organisation in 2014.

In December 2022, the Court of Appeal reduced the sentence for “expressing sympathy” to 10 years and dropped the other charge. However, Shalabi was deprived of his right to legal representation, where he was forced to sign confessions under threat.

Sabri Shalaby has been working in Saudi Arabia as a psychiatrist since 2006 at the Directorate of Public Health in Tabuk in northwestern Saudi Arabia. In 2016, he discovered that he was being paid less than he should, so he filed a lawsuit against the Directorate of Health seeking a settlement for years of unpaid compensation.

In December 2019, the Saudi court upheld Shalabi’s claim, ordering the directorate to pay him his lost salary. However, the directorate appealed the decision, abruptly fired him, and, as his sponsor under the kafala (visa sponsorship) system, issued a final exit visa to Shalabi and his wife, which would require them to leave the country.

 A few days before an appeals court decision in his civil case, plain clothes police arrested Shalabi from his home.

One month later, Shalabi informed his family that Saudi authorities intended to charge him with expressing sympathy with the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is worth to mention that the court ordered the Directorate to compensate Shalabi only for the period between 2009 and 2019 due to a 10-year time limit in the applicable law. However, neither Shalabi nor his family have received any payment.

We affirm that Shalabi’s arrest, imprisonment and trial came in retaliation for his salary dispute.

We also stress the need for an international intervention to put an end to the Saudi increasing violations and abuses against peaceful opponents.

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