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A Saudi Cleric Tawfeeq Alamer is Harshly Sentenced to 8-year After Demanding Constitutional Reforms

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On August 13, 2014, the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh sentenced the Saudi’s cleric Tawfiq AlAmer (54 years) to 8-year in prison, 10-year travel ban and sermon/speech ban after being released. This is the third sentences to AlAmer, where he was sentenced to 3-year in prison and 5-year travel ban on 17/12/2012. However, the Court of Appeals rejected this on 30/06/2013, and new sentenced to AlAmer to 4-year in prison and a 5-year travel ban was issued, and again the Court of Appeals rejected the ruling and lately accepted the 8-year in prison, 10-year travel ban sentence.

AlAmer demanded political reforms, as switching to constitutional monarchy instead of absolute monarchy in Saudi Arabia. On 25/02/2011 AlAmer expressed the need for reform in Saudi Arabia, which includes the transition to a constitutional monarchy, equal employment opportunity and an end to discrimination against religious minorities. He was released with no charge on March 6 after spending a week in detention. This release came two days after a rally attended by about 300 young people were addressed towards the headquarters of the province of Al-Ahsa.

On August 3rd, AlAmerwas arrested on his way home from a mosque Hofuf city, in the province of Al-Ahsa,

It is said that he had received a message from the authority a few days before the arrest asking him to stop by. AlAmer’s family knew that he was arrested after 5 days and were allowed to visit him a police station in the west of the city of Dammam.

Over the period of his detention since August 2011, AlAmer were transferred to multiple prisons and is currently being held in Al-Ha’ai’s prison south of Riyadh, which is nearly 350 kilometers away from AlAmer’s family, which is being done as a punishment to the family or lawyer causing difficulty to visit.

Some of charges against AlAmer including: calls for reform – his fatwa to disobey the guardian (Wali al mar) – violating his commitment terms with the security authorities, where he pledged during previous arrest – possession CD which contains materials that violates Wali al amir instruction – and unlawful fundraising after Friday prayer.

AlAmer was arrested multiple times, as follow:

  1.  Arrested on 27/04/2005 in regards sponsoring an art exhibition, which its theme is a religious historical event (Karbala). AlAmer was released after 24 hours.
  2. AlAmer was also arrested on 22/06/2008 after criticizing 22 conservative Saudi’s scholars, who have signed a statement in which states that Shia Muslims unbelievers (Kafir). He was then released after about 3 days.
  3. Also was arrested on 06/09/2008 for 11 days due to his relationship to an art exhibition that celebrated religious event of the Shiite sect (Ashura).
  4. Another arrested was in 2009 for 10 days. It was in regards to religious practices of the Shiite sect. He was accused of inciting anti-government, he was prosecuted, bu this trial did not continue and its fate is unknown.
  5. Also arrested on 27/02/2011 and was released after 7 days with no charge.
  6. And he is under arrest since 03/08/2011, the 6th arrest, which is been more than 3 years from now.

The European Saudi organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) expresses its deep concern about the role of the court in AlAmer’s case, and ESOHR confirms that this role is contrary to freedom of expression. The ESOHR also emphasizes that the Saudi government must comply with international law of human rights, including its ratified international and regional conventions, which have higher legal standard than local systems. Also, contrary to the occupied position by Saudi in the Human Rights Council as an elected member for three years until 2016, the resolution adopted by the General Assembly states: (Decides also that members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights [1] ), this is contrary to what provided by Saudi Arabia in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) including what is mentioned in paragraph 27 (Saudi systems ensure freedom of expression of every human being [2] ).

The ESOHR calls the Saudi government for the immediate release of AlAmer; drop all charges against him; to allow freedom of expression; democratic participation of citizens and to accelerate the legalization of civil society institutes.

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[1] United Nation (UN): Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 15 March 2006 [without reference to a Main Committee (A/60/L.48)] 60/251. Human Rights Council

http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/60/251&referer=/english/&Lang=E

[2] United Nation (UN): National report submitted in accordance with  paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21* Saudi Arabia

http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G13/160/88/PDF/G1316088.pdf?OpenElement