The Saudi Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) handed the preacher Sheikh Abdullah Basfar a 12-year jail sentence two years after his detention during a large-scale crackdown targeting preachers, religious scholars, and academics.
The court order was issued earlier this week after an unfair trial that failed to meet the key fair trial standards, where Sheikh Abdullah Basfar was deprived of his basic rights, mainly access to a lawyer. The court also refused to take his ill-treatment and torture allegations into consideration.
Sheikh Abdullah Basfar, the imam of the Mansour Al-Shuaibi mosque in Al-Salama district in Jeddah, was arrested in August 2020 in mysterious circumstances. His whereabouts remain unknown for several months to be brought to court a year later, where he was subjected to ill-treatment and human rights violations.
Sheikh Basfar was a renowned religious figure in the country, formerly holding an associate professorship in Sharia and Islamic Studies at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. He is also a very famous Quran reciter in the Arab and Islamic world.
Sheikh Basfar’s arrest was met with a large-scale condemnation among his students and followers, who were shocked by his unjustified detention.
Rights sources affirmed that Sheikh Basfar’s arrest came on the grounds of a visit he made to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul several years ago and his wish to lead worshippers in the courtyard of the Hagia Sophia mosque.
Together for Justice affirms that Sheikh Abdullah Basfar’s prison sentence is an unfair and arbitrary court order based on flimsy evidence and false confessions extracted under torture without legal representation.
In this regard, we call on UN bodies, international civil society organisations and decision-makers around the world to urgently intervene and form a special committee to check on Saudi prisoners of conscience’s detention conditions, to provide them with their basic human and legal rights, and to open investigations into all the human rights violations they were subjected to.
Saudi Arabia is notorious for its poor human rights record and hefty sentencing of activists and political opponents amid an international passive position.
We also warn that turning a blind eye to these continued human rights violations will only give a green light for more serious violations and abuses in the Kingdom.