Saudi Arabia: Reformers may get verdict next week

Four years ago a group of lawyers, professors and activists were detained after they met in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah to discuss reform in Saudi Arabia.
Among other offences, the defendants had been charged with attempting to seize power, incitement against the king, financing terrorism, electronic crimes, money laundering and trying to set up a political party in Saudi Arabia, where political groupings are banned.

Now, four years later: ”Some of the verdicts could come out on Tuesday or Wednesday,” lawyer Bassim Alim told Reuters.
“There are basically two scenarios. The first is that they would be let out on the basis that they had already served enough time and the second is that they will get a few more years which will give time for the king to pardon them in due course,” Alim said.

A Justice Ministry spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

In May, Judge Saleh bin Ali al-Ojairy fell out with Alim, who is defending all but one of the 16 activists, and banned him from access to the court and direct contact with his clients.
“(The judge) denied me entry into the court to defend my clients, I am currently still their legal representative and preparing all documentation out of court for them to personally hand in to the judge,” said Alim.
“I communicate with my clients … through their family visits. The families convey their messages to me and I reply. It’s been a very difficult situation,” he said, adding that no other lawyer had agreed to defend the activists due to the sensitivity of the case.

Activists say thousands of people are held in Saudi prisons without charge or access to lawyers despite a law that limits detention without trial to six months.

“This case has not been objective, People already realize the travesty of the procedures and the charges,” said Alim.


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12 Responses

  1. Who is “AA”?

  2. Aafke???

  3. or is it Ali Alyami?

  4. It’s estimated that there are about 40, 000 political prisoners languishing in Saudi dungeons. Most of them commit no crimes other than calling and petitioning for a constitutional monarchy and codified rule of law to replace the autocratic and theocratic nomadic arbitrary.

    One has to understand that it’s not in the nature, character or culture of desert chieftains to accept half of the loaf even when it’s the only option available to them. The autocratic and theocratic ruling men and their beneficiaries and cronies (men and women) may live in gold plated palatial palaces, import poverty stricken maids and use the best luxury stolen money can buy, their perceptions of themselves, new realities and the world around them remain unchanged or blurry at best. They consider anyone who questions their methods of ruling and controlling to be deviant, terrorist, westernized decadent, Zionist agent and worse of all, Mulhid.

    At a time when the world is expeditiously changing and the Arab people are revolting against centuries of oppression, discrimination, marginalization, alienation, rampant corruption and widening gaps between rich and poor, the Saudi ruling men continue to rule as if they are immune to evolutionary and unstoppable human demands for equality, liberty and say in decisions that affect every aspect of their lives and livelihood. There you have it Laylah.

  5. Dr. Alyami has hammered the nail right on its head!

    The Saudi Arabian authorities have launched a sustained assault on human/political rights under the façade of countering terrorism, especially since 9/11. Thousands of people have been arrested and detained in virtual secrecy, while others have been killed in uncertain circumstances. Hundreds more people face secret and summary trials and possible execution. Many are reported to have been tortured in order to extract confessions or as punishment after conviction.

    According to Amnesty Int’l and other international human rights organizations, abuses take place behind a wall of secrecy. Detainees are held with no idea of what is going to happen to them. Most are held incommunicado for years without trial, and are denied access to lawyers and the courts to challenge the legality of their detention.

    Reported methods of torture and other ill-treatment include severe beatings with sticks, punching, and suspension from the ceiling, use of electric shocks and sleep deprivation. Flogging is also imposed as a legal punishment by itself or in addition to imprisonment, and sentences can include thousands of lashes.

    For years now, many international human right organizations have been reporting of abuses in Saudi Arabia, without anything happening. Every year the same charges are levelled against Saudi Arabia and every year new arm sales are made.

    But why don’t we see any campaign against Saudi Arabia? Why don’t we hear presidents and prime ministers condemning these atrocities? Why don’t we see articles urging a regime change in Saudi Arabia? How come it is OK to have thousands of people killed to remove a dictator in Iraq, yet it is not OK to even publicly call for change of the system of government in Saudi Arabia?

    Because the House of Saud is willing to provide the world with cheap oil and political support in their problems with the Arabs and Muslims in return for elimination of all criticism??? It goes further and uses the awarding of huge defense contracts for the same purpose. In reality, the twin policy of using oil and awarding defense contracts is no more than blackmail … they protect the Western economies from high oil prices and buy arms in return for silence. Very sad but very true!

  6. I am crossing my fingers and hope that the ‘political prisoners’ are set free. I do not like to sound negative, but it seems like a stretch, since a judge is making it difficult for the prisoners to work with their lawyer effectively.
    Like the their the countries next door, KSA finds ways to circumvent the system, violating the rights of fair trial and access to lawyer.
    @ Harry. You are spot on, especially the statements in your last paragraph.

  7. Nothing like enjoying the end of a long day with a glass of bourbon, and reading these comments. Riveting stuff..

  8. How is it possible to have an ABSOLUTE monarchy in this day and age? Especially in the age of internet and satellite TVs? The answer is terror of course. Only absolute terror can maintain an absolute monarchy. And we in the West — while shouting about human rights in Iran, Burma, Sudan, North Korea and other places — keep silent about Saudi Arabia. However, history shows that no amount of oppression is going to stop the inevitable from happening.

    Just look at the statistics. Nearly 40% of population is below 14 years of age. The median age of Saudi population is 21 years. Imagine a country with such a large teenage population, strict religious and social codes, and no democracy. These people will demand participation in the political process. If the government suppresses them (as it is doing now), they become easy recruits for extremists.

    Saudi regime has to be pressured to give in. Basic human rights which we tend to take for granted are absent in this country. The world should no longer be mute spectator to the human rights violation in this country. Human rights violations are pervasive in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy. Despite international and domestic pressure to implement reforms, improvements have been halting and inadequate and remain poor. Saudi law does not protect many basic rights.

    What we should be aware of is the fact that people see the cause of their plight in the support that the West provides the regime. If they overthrow the government, in all likelihood the new government will be extremely anti-western. To avoid this it is advisable to begin seriously pressuring the Saudi government to reform.

  9. Surprise!! Saudi clerics resist even minor reforms proposed by king. It’s only natural: what is standing in the way of attempts to “reform” Sharia is Sharia’s own inherent resistance to reform, as it is upheld as Allah’s perfect law for all mankind, for all time. To say a given law is flawed is to imply either that Allah issued a bad law, or that humans erred in their interpretation or propagation of it.

    To avoid blasphemy and all of its unpleasant consequences, pleas for reform by saudi reformers naturally focus on the latter scenario, though that scenario is just as easily used to downplay the flaws inherent in Sharia: whatever the problem, it’s all a misunderstanding on someone’s part. However, that tactic works both ways, as both sides can say, “it’s not Sharia’s problem, it’s you.” And so the substance of Sharia generally goes un-addressed, both by would-be “reformers” and those seeking to evade reform.

    Of course, there are notable exceptions among the anti-reform crowd who unabashedly acknowledge and praise Sharia’s commands to “whip, cut, or kill” as Allah commanded. “Saudi Arabia’s clerics challenge King Abdullah’s reform agenda,” by Jason Burke for the Guardian, July 1:

  10. The anti enlightenment clerics are only tools in the hands of their masters, the ruling princes. They are on the government payroll and are used to issue destructive fatawi to justify corruption, oppression and abuses of power.

    Google Princess Basma Bint Saud recent interview on BBC and listen to what she has to say about the agent of darkness. The Saudi religious establishment is indirectly responsible for the country’s backwardness.

  11. Thank you, Dr. Alyami, for the interview reference to the princess. Saudi Arabia needs more outspoken reformers like her ….

  12. I think right now the kingdom has a golden opportunity that will likely be lost. We have a very popular king- who is more liberal than much of the society who could probably shove some reform on the conservative elements of society. He could also channel some of the income into infrastructure and true educational reform- which of course in time would lead to political reform. He could take some immediate steps to reform the laws as well. If the royals played it smart and moved towards transitioning into a constitutional monarchy- similar to the UK they could keep their jobs and the country could progress. But I’m afraid we’re in for more reactionary moves rather than proactive ones.

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