Prominent Saudi dissident economist Essam Al-Zamil has been sentenced by a Saudi court to 15 years in prison after refusing to publish an interview with de facto ruler crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
Al-Zamil, a software engineer, was named by Forbes magazine as “one of the most influential economic figures in the kingdom and founder of a pioneering information technology company”.
He had previously been given an award by King Salman for being the “youngest, most successful entrepreneur in the kingdom”.
Al-Zawil was held in pre-trial detention for three years before the ruling. He was also accused being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and inciting protests. He was additionally charged with communicating with Qatar, which had been under blockade by Saudi Arabia since 2017.
The sentence was revealed on Twitter by human rights group Prisoners of Conscience. Their tweet said: “The economist Essam Al-Zamil was unjustly sentenced to 15 years imprisonment after three years of arbitrary detention.
“Al-Zamil deserved a ministerial position in the ministry of economy but the repressive authorities have imprisoned [him] since 2017.
“Now they have completed that human rights violation by issuing a 15-year prison sentence against him.
“We affirm our total rejection of this ruling and demand his immediate release.”
This case shows the fragility of MBS. For the “crime” of not publishing an interview with the crown prince, an innocent man is set to spend years in Saudi Arabia’s notoriously inhumane prison system.
Al-Zamil must be freed, and we call on all humanitarians around the world to take up his case, and to pressure Saudi Arabia into respecting natural justice – not stealing the freedom of those who dare to disagree with him.