Saudi Arabia: Imprisoned Human Rights Activist Waleed Abu Al-Khair Is at Risk

Well-informed sources confirmed that the lawyer and human rights activist Walid Abu Al-Khair’s life is in danger after he was brutally beaten by a group of criminal prisoners in Al-Saadiya prison in presence of a Saudi prison official.

According to the sources, the prison officer incited the prisoners to assault, provoke and beat Abu al-Khair.

Following the attack, Abu al-Khair was transferred to solitary confinement despite his serious health condition.

Abu Al-Khair is a prominent human rights lawyer. He was detained on 15 April 2014 on fabricated charges after an unfair trial that did not follow international standards of due process.

On 06 July 2014, the Specialised Criminal Court upheld his sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment and a travel ban for an equal period after his release, along with a fine of 200,000 Saudi Riyals (approx. 48,000 Euros at the time) on charges related to his peaceful activities in the field of human rights.

Waleed Abu al-Khair has faced persecution before his detention and has been banned from traveling since March 2012 for defending several Saudi political prisoners, mainly his brother-in-law the activist Raif al-Badawi.

Waleed Abu al-Khair has founded the Saudi Arabia Monitor of Human Rights, an independent human rights organization in 2008.

Waleed Abu al-Khair is among a dozen prominent activists who were all sentenced in 2013 to long prison terms based on trumped-up charges that the authorities resorted to after failing to silence them by other means, including the threat of prosecution and other extra-judicial means of intimidation.

He was brought before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh on 6 October 2013, on charges that included, among other things, “breaking allegiance to and disobeying the ruler”, “disrespecting the authorities”, “offending the judiciary”, “inciting international organisations against the Kingdom” and “founding an unlicensed organization”.

Three weeks later, on 29 October 2013 another criminal court in Jeddah sentenced him to three months in prison on similar charges related to ridiculing or offending the Saudi Arabian judiciary. The Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and sentence on 6 February 2014.

 In both court cases, evidence for all charges against Waleed Abu al-Khair seem to be based on his signing of a petition that criticized the heavy-handedness of the Saudi Arabian authorities in dealing with 16 reformists.

He received several awards in the field of human rights, including the Human Rights Award from the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2016, the Olof Palme Prize in 2012, and the Ludovic Trario International Award for Human Rights in 2015.

Waleed Abu al-Khair is the husband of the prominent human rights activist Samar Badawi who was detained more than once for her activism.

Badawi is also the sister of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who in 2014 was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In this regard, we express full solidarity with prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair and call on the Saudi authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.

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