Saudi Arabia: The trial of Salman Al-Odah and Mohammad Al Otaibi another example of the use of the judiciary to punish opponents


GENEVA- Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties ( GCRL) condemns the Saudi authorities’ continued use of courts and judicial bodies to punish detainees for their political opposition, practicing freedom of expression and calls for the immediate release of all these detainees.

The Specialized Criminal Court in Saudi Arabia postponed on Sunday, October 18, 2020, the hearing of preacher Dr. Salman Al-Odah, minutes after it was held without any progress in the proceedings of the trial. The Saudi researcher, Dr. Abdullah, Al-Odah’s son, said on Twitter: “the session of my father, Salman Al-Odah, is postponed today to a month later on November 16, and the same scenes of tampering with all litigation procedures and trials are repeated.”

Al-Odah was previously arrested several times by the Saudi authorities for his political positions and views. On September 10, 2017, he was arrested as a part of the kingdom’s widespread crackdown  after he tweeted a prayer where he said: “may God harmonize between their hearts for the good of their people.”

His health deteriorated a few months after his arrest and he was hospitalised in Jeddah on January 18, 2018.  His son denied news about the death of his father under torture claiming that he was transferred to the hospital without any further details.

On September 4, 2018, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor sought the execution of Sheikh Al-Odah and handed down 37 charges including terrorism-related charges.

In a similar context, the next trial session of human rights activist Mohammed Al-Otaibi has been scheduled for 26 October over charges of “fleeing justice” and “going to Qatar”. Al-Otaibi’s wife had reported that a 14-year prison sentence against her husband was upheld in the last session after the judge rejected the petition submitted to stop this ruling.

The Qatari authorities forcibly deported Al-Otaibi to Saudi Arabia on May 25, 2017, two months after he fled there, and he was subsequently put on trial in Saudi Arabia on charges related to his human rights activities including the establishment of a human rights association (Union for Human Rights) in 2013.

Since the rise to power of Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi authorities have launched a wide-ranging crackdown against dissent and arrested hundreds of political opponents, human rights activists.

Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties believes that these trials are grossly unfair and lack the minimum international standards of fair trial and due process

do not provide an adequate right of lack international standards for a fair trial, as the Criminal Court is not independent and formed under the pretext of fighting terrorism to silence opponents who are critical of the Saudi regime. In addition, most of the trials are secret, and the defendants are deprived of their right to defend themselves or to appoint a lawyer.

It is crystal clear that the trial proceedings demonstrate the Saudi authorities’ use of excessive and politically-motivated prolonged periods of detention as a form of punishment against the detainees which keep them under a state of constant anxiety looking forward to sessions and sentences.

GCRL voices concerns over reportedly allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees who are being held in degrading conditions, and deaths in custody. It also renews its demand to stop these trials and to remedy its legal procedures, to release detainees, and to put an end to all forms of abuse against them.

Geneva Council urges the international community to uphold its responsibilities regarding these violations, to speak out against the Saudi government’s serious human rights abuses, and to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators. GCRL also calls on the United Nations to activate its own mechanisms to stop flagrant human rights violations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, foremost arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and trials on charges related to freedom of opinion.

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