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31 months on: The continued detention of Al-Hamid & Al-Qahtani following their calls for reform

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The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR)expresses condemnation regarding the Saudi governments continued detention of Dr. Mohammad Fahad Al-Qahtani and Dr.Abdullah Hamed Al-Hamed, for more than31 months, following their demands for political reform and civil rights.

Dr.Al-Qahtani, 49, holds a doctor at ein economics, and Dr. Al-Hamed, 67, holds a doctorate in Arabic language, both of whom are amongst the founders of the Civil and political Rights Association in Saudi Arabia (HASM). They faced charges related to their calls for reform, accountability, an end of corruption, as well as their calls to end human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.

On March 2012, the public prosecutor in Riyadh summoned Al-Qahtani and Al-Hamid to investigate their civil activities. Following this, on the 25thMarcha travel ban was imposed on Al-Qahtani, and on 11thJuly, while attending atrial session of his colleague, Dr. Abdullah al-Hamid he was informed that the public Prosecutor would raise a case against him.

The trials began in two separate sessions: Al-Hamid’s trial commenced on11th June 2012, whilst Al-Qahtani’s trial began on 18thJune. Later the two cases were merged in the same sessions. In total, they faced eleven charge which were all related to their activities in the field of human rights, including participation in the establishment of an unauthorized association, the pursuit of subversion of state policies, providing false information about Saudi Arabia,incitement of international organizations against KSA, participating in an unauthorized association. Prosecutors demanded a harsh punishment, and prevented them from traveling.

On 29thDecember 2012,the Court adjourned to consider sentencing. On the 9thMarch 2013, the criminal court  in Riyadh, ruled by condemning Al-Qahtani to 10 years imprisonment followed by a ten year travel ban, whilst Al-Hamid was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment, followed by an 11year travel ban.

Al-Qahtani was arrested during the session of as entence hearing and before the acquisition of the final status of the Court of Appeal judgment. An armed soldier asked the audience to leave the room, they then asked Al-Hamidand Al-Qahtani to go to another room, where they were immediately arrested.

ESOHR confirms that both Al-Hamid and Al-Qahtani were subjected to arbitrary arrest, and the charges they were accused of were related to their peaceful activities, including criticizing human rights violations with in the kingdom. Their arrest represents a violation of the right to freedom of expression, whilst both their arrest and ongoing detention violate Saudi Arabia commitment to human rights.

Fair trial principles were also violated as Al-Qahtani was prevented from communicating with his lawyer when he visited him in prison in March 2014, as was being detained incommunicado.

Both Al-Hamid and Al-Qahtani suffered from poor conditions in Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh from poor conditions, in violation of the Convention against Torture and other ill-treatment, ultimately led to them declaring a hunger strike in March 2014 to demand better health care and condition in prison. The Saudi authorities then transferred them to an area of ​​the prison where smoking is permitted on 3rd March 2014, posing a health threat to their lives, and they have since suffered from harassment from the prison officers, including the confiscation of their books and personal belongings.

ESOHR asserts that the trial of Dr. Mohammad al-Qahtani and Dr. Abdullah al-Hamed is a part of a series of trials aimed human rights defenders in the country.

Thus ESOHR calls on the Saudi authorities to: -Drop all charges against all Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani, Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid. -Release immediately and unconditionally both Al-Qahtani and Al-Hamid. – Provide health treatment for each of Al-Hamid and al-Qahtani. -To investigate those officers responsible for the harassment they were exposed to inside the prison. -Ensure the ability of human rights defenders to work without fear of reprisal.

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