(Beirut) – Human Rights Watch said that a Saudi court sentenced a Sudanese journalist and journalist to four years in prison on June 8, 2021, on charges of “insulting some state institutions and institutions” and “talking negatively about the kingdom’s policy,” among others. Other vague charges.
The sentence against Ahmed Ali Abdel Qader, 31, is linked to tweets and media interviews he posted on “Twitter” in which he discussed Sudan’s revolution 2018-2019 and expressed its support, and criticized Saudi Arabia’s actions in Sudan and Yemen.
“A media prison on fabricated charges shows the negativity of Saudi Arabia’s policies more than anything else Ahmed Ali Abdel Qader has published,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This and other prosecutions show just how determined Saudi authorities are to stamp out even the slightest criticism or even the slightest criticism. Debate on social media, deterring all opponents under threat of long prison terms.
Saudi authorities arrested Abdul Qadir when he arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on April 19, and held him first in a police station in Jeddah for 20 days, then transferred him to Shumaisi prison near Mecca. Abdelkader has been denied access to a lawyer, including from legal representation at his trial.
His trial consisted of only two short sessions. In the first, the charges were read out against him and the judge denied him the opportunity to defend himself. In the second, the judge immediately read Abdelkader’s verdict, a source familiar with the case told Human Rights Watch.
Abdul Qader lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for five years, between 2015 and December 2020. First as a media coordinator for the Asian Football Confederation and then in the Marketing and Communications Department for a consumer supermarket chain. In December, he left the country on a final exit visa, which is mandatory for permanent departure. In April, he returned to Saudi Arabia on a new work visa and was arrested upon entry. The source said that the Saudi Public Prosecution interrogated him twice during his detention and accused him of harming Saudi Arabia through Twitter.
He was sentenced by a criminal court in Jeddah on the basis of tweets and statements he made to the media during and after February 2018, most of which he published while he was in Saudi Arabia, in addition to his electronic correspondence with major international human rights organizations in which he inquired about membership, through which he subscribed to and received newsletters. Human Rights Watch reviewed nine media tweets and interviews explicitly cited in the court ruling and found that they do not incite violence, hatred, or discrimination, the only categories of speech that states can target with sanctions under international human rights law.
Some of his tweets refer to Saudi relations with Sudan, including a tweet in March 2020In response to a tweet by the head of the “Sudanese Congress Party” regarding the measures of the “Corona” virus, in which he accused the Sudanese military government of receiving orders from Riyadh. in a tweet in September 2020 On the possibility of Sudan’s normalization with Israel at the request of the Emirates, Abdel Qader said that Sudan cannot operate outside the orbit of Saudi Arabia and is unlikely to normalize with Israel unless Saudi Arabia does so as well.
in a tweet in July 2018In response to a Twitter poll conducted by Al Arabiya TV channel in Saudi Arabia asking why Sudanese youth joined the extremist “Islamic State” organization (also known as “ISIS”), Abdel Qader accused the Saudi media of targeting Sudan and Saudi Arabia over ISIS financing. In September 2020, Abdel Qader thanked the Qatari government, which was at odds with the Saudi government, for what he said was its support for the Sudanese people.
Court ruling was also cited Abdelkader’s interactions on Twitter With the Egyptian journalist in the “Al-Sharq” satellite channel, Moataz Matar, in addition to that he kept Matar’s mobile phone number in his phone’s contact list, as evidence that he belongs to the “Muslim Brotherhood”. The Istanbul-based opposition TV channel Al Sharq is widely known to be supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood. The judgment did not refer to specific interactions.
The referee also referred to two media interviews that Abdel Qader gave with Al Sharq Channel in January 2019, AndChannel “In1” Bosnian TV in June 2019, in which he discussed the 2018-2019 Sudanese revolution.
The court convicted him on charges of publishing tweets that caused “offending some state institutions and symbols, and the coalition forces in their war against the terrorist Houthi militias.” And “talking negatively about the kingdom’s policy and its relationship with the government of Sudan”, “accusing the Kingdom of interfering in Sudanese affairs”, “exploiting the Hajj season for economic purposes”, “accusing the Saudi media of supporting the terrorist organization ISIS”, and “appearing on media platforms loyal to parties hostile to the Kingdom and speaking about it in a manner that harms the Kingdom.”
In addition to the aforementioned arbitrary charges, which lack any basis in written or accessible law, the court also convicted him under Articles 6(1) and 13 of the repressive 2007 Anti-Cybercrime Law. Article 6(1) imposes prison sentences not More than five years or a fine not exceeding 3 million riyals or one of these two penalties for publishing information on the Internet that harms “public order, religious values, public morals, or the sanctity of private life.” Under Article 13 of the law, the Saudi court ordered the closure of Abdul Qader’s Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok accounts, and the confiscation of his cell phone.
Saudi authorities have frequently used broadly worded accusations, such as Article 6 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law, to restrict the legitimate and peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, in violation of international human rights obligations. The Arab Charter on Human Rights, ratified by Saudi Arabia, guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Article 32.
“Not only is Abdelkader denied his basic due process rights, but when the government uses vague charges aimed at restricting freedom of expression and harshly punishing peaceful criticism, there is no real chance of a fair trial,” Page said.