Free Saudi Human Rights Activist Mohammed al-Bajadi Sentenced To Ten Years
- King Salman, Saudi embassies, US State Department, Bank Ki-Moon, Navi Pillay, EU, Euro Parliament
URGENT UPDATE: MOHAMMED AJ-BAJADI HAS BEEN SENTENCED TO TEN YEARS IN PRISON! March 12, 2015--A founding member of one of the few independent human rights groups in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, a regional rights group has said.
Mohammed al-Bajadi was sentenced last Thursday by the specialised criminal court in Riyadh, whose jurisdiction is related to terrorism, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) said in a statement on Wednesday.
ajadi is a founder of the Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), said the GCHR, which has offices in Beirut and Copenhagen.
“The court ordered him to serve the first five years of the sentence and suspended the last five years,” it said, adding that he was tried without prior notification or access to his lawyers.
Bajadi, in his 30s, faced various accusations including acquiring banned books, organising a protest by the families of prisoners and publishing material that “would prejudice public order”, the group said.
According to a report by Amnesty International in October, Saudi authorities “have targeted the founding members of ACPRA one by one, in a relentless effort to dismantle the organisation and silence its members, as part of a broader crackdown on independent activism and freedom of expression since 2011”.
Bajadi was one of three members of the group awaiting retrial. Two others were detained without trial, while three were serving prison terms of up to 15 years, Amnesty said in October.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia hit out at criticism of its judiciary and said it does not accept “any form of interference in its internal affairs”.
The comments came in response to worldwide outrage over the sentence of 1,000 lashes handed to another activist, Raif Badawi, for “insulting Islam”.
The foreign ministry said the country’s constitution “is based on sharia (Islamic law) that guarantees human rights”.
Sweden announced on Tuesday that it would not be renewing a military cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, in effect ending defence ties, due to mounting concerns over human rights issues.
In January, the Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström, condemned the kingdom’s treatment of Badawi as “nearly medieval”.
Badawi received his first 50 lashes in January but there have been no more since.
Mohammed al-Bajadi, leader of Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), was detained in March 2011 for supporting families gathering outside the interior ministry in Riyadh to demand the release of detained relatives.
His trial on various charges, including the tarnishing of the state's reputation, has been suspended as he refused to recognize the court. Judges have prohibited Mr Bajadi's lawyers from attending his trial at the Specialised Criminal Court, a state security tribunal for terrorism cases.
On the weekend, ACPRA published a letter from Mr Bajadi which was smuggled out of his prison by someone who visited another inmate.
"I inform you that I am still continuing with my hunger strike," he wrote.
"On Tuesday 20 March I was taken to the prison hospital for a check-up and force fed in the presence of five soldiers and the ward officer."
He added: "I have lost around 10kg (22lb) and my blood sugar level, according to them, has dropped to a dangerous level."
Activists tried unsuccessfully to visit Mr Bajadi in prison on 2 April.
"The interior ministry... carries full responsibility over the deteriorating health condition of the prominent rights activist and member of the association, Mohammed bin Saleh al-Bajadi," ACPRA said in a statement.
Mr Bajadi "stopped drinking water early Saturday... fainting four times in a row, which proves that his life is in danger and his death inevitable."
But on Tuesday evening, the interior ministry rejected the claim.
"Mohammed al-Bajadi did not go on hunger strike and he is in good health, consuming food on a regular basis and in the company of other inmates," Mr Turki told the Reuters news agency.
AND WHEREAS: The arrest and sentencing of Saudi human rights lawyer to Mohammed al-Bajadi to ten years in prison is a clear violation of Articles 24 and 30 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights--to which Saudi Arabia is a signatory--and is therefore ILLEGAL;
THEREFORE, we the undersigned demand that the international community bring all possible pressure to bear upon the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to IMMEDIATELY and UNCONDITIONALLY release Mohammed al-Bajadi, reverse his conviction, drop all illegal charges against him, and honor its binding human rights obligations.