Saudis put human rights lawyer on trial
The Saudi regime is not known for upholding any principles, Islamic or others.
New York, Crescent-online
April 20, 2013, 09:15 EST
What kind of a regime would put lawyers on trial for doing no more than their professional work? The US-zionist backed Saudi regime is one but there is also another: the US, patron saint of the family fiefdom. Egypt also used to prosecute lawyers when Hosni Mubarak was the headman ruling on behalf of the US and Israel. Since his overthrow two years ago, this practice of prosecuting lawyers has ended.
The Saudis have taken offence at a human rights lawyer’s criticism of the judicial system when his client was sent to jail for seven months without a trial. Walid Abu al-Khair is to go trial on charges of “offending the judiciary” and “attempting to distort the reputation of the kingdom.” He will appear before Jeddah’s Criminal Court on Sunday April 21.
Why is the judiciary offended if the lawyer points out that imprisoning a person without trial is a travesty of justice? And what reputation is the kingdom referring to: that it executes petty thieves in the public square but the mega thieves belonging to the ruling family act above the law? Domestic servants are executed without proper legal representation or translation facilities. Is this what the Saudi judiciary is all about and is this what the kingdom hinges its tattered reputation on? The Saudi regime is not known for upholding any principles, Islamic or others, so one is at a loss to understand what reputation is the kingdom alluding to.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Saudi authorities to “immediately halt” Abu al-Khair’s one-and-half-year prosecution for criticizing the kingdom’s judicial system. The charges against Abu al-Khair “are based solely on the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression,” said HRW.
“If Saudi authorities are truly concerned with the reputation of their judiciary, they should stop prosecuting lawyers who criticize the legal system’s failings,” said HRW Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson. Abu-Alkhair’s trial began in September 2011 after he criticized a judge’s ruling to jail his client for seven months without trial.
He has also been the coordinator of a team of lawyers for ten prominent human rights defenders. The activists were handed down 30-year prison sentences in 2011. There are more than 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia, many of them held without trial. These include lawyers, academics, human rights activists as well as ulama critical of the regime’s policies.
In March 2009, a team of human rights activists that included many prominent lawyers and academics submitted an application to the interior ministry to set up a human rights monitoring body in the kingdom. The ministry dismissed the application. Undeterred, the activists appealed to then interior minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz. They were invited to meet the minister raising hopes that their efforts might bear fruit.
The academics and lawyers politely explained that such a body would help boost the image of Saudi Arabia as a country that respects human rights. Nayef listened carefully and after they had concluded told them: “We took this kingdom by the sword and we will keep it by the sword.” He then had all the academics and lawyers promptly arrested.
Nayef was appointed Crown Prince in October 2011 when the former Crown Prince Sultan died of cancer in a New York hospital. Nayef, however, did not last long in his newly elevated position. He too dropped dead in June 2012. The interior ministry is now headed by his son, Muhammad bin Nayef who is viewed as a potential future king.
Discontent in the kingdom has escalated both because of the manner in which a single family controls all the levers of power as well as how the resources of the kingdom are squandered. These are spent at their discretion. Billions are pilfered by the hordes of princes without any accountability. Despite earning nearly $300 billion in oil revenues each year, there is mass unemployment and lack of housing in the kingdom. Worse, people have no representation or say in how policies are made.
Putting lawyers on trial shows the extreme nervousness of the ruling family. Their days are clearly numbered; the sooner they are consigned to the dustbin of history, the better for the Muslim Ummah, and indeed the entire humanity.