A prominent human rights activist has been jailed for 10 years in Saudi Arabia, according to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).
Mohammed Al Bajadi, a founding member of the Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), was accused of acquiring banned books, organising a protest by the families of prisoners and publishing material that “would prejudice public order”, said GCHR.
GCHR, which is forced to operate from Beirut and Copenhagen and whose website is banned in the UAE, said Al Bajadi, aged in his 30s, was sentenced on March 5 by the specialised criminal court in Riyadh, whose jurisdiction is related to terrorism.
He was ordered to serve the first five years of the sentence and the last five years were suspended, the group said, adding that he was tried without prior notification or access to his lawyers, The Guardian reported.
Amnesty International said in October, Al Bajadi was one of three ACPRA members awaiting retrial. Two others were detained without trial, while three were serving prison terms of up to 15 years.
“[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,” Amnesty International said in October.
Another prominent activist blogger, Raif Badawi, was sentenced to 1000 lashes in January, for “insulting Islam”.
He received the first 50 but the subsequent floggings have been delayed due to “health concerns” amid international outrage.
Last week, the head of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission defended the kingdom’s use of the death penalty, claiming it was justice for victims.
The foreign ministry also said the country’s constitution “is based on sharia [Islamic law] that guarantees human rights”.
On Wednesday, the kingdom withdrew its ambassador to Sweden after the European state announced it would not be renew 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”.
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