Saudis urged to act on detained tweeter

Human Rights Watch says authorities must 'immediately charge or release' detainee
Saudis urged to act on detained tweeter
By Andy Sambidge
Sat 03 Nov 2012 10:32 AM

An international human rights group has called on Saudi authorities to "immediately charge or release" Mohammed Salama, a dual US and Saudi citizen detained without charge since April.

Human Rights Watch said Salama was arrested at his home on April 30 after he posted several tweets criticising interpretations of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, also known as the hadith, on his personal twitter account.

The rights group said judiciary officials have neither publicly announced any charges against Salama nor suggested that he may be guilty of any commonly recognisable criminal offence.

“Neither Salama nor his family have been informed of any accusations against him,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“No one should languish in prison without charge, especially for expressing a peaceful opinion.”

According to Salama’s family, there is no record of his detention or of any charges being brought against him, he added.

Article 144 of the 2002 Saudi Law of Criminal Procedure places a six-month limit on the period that detainees can be held without charge, after which they must be charged or released.

Salama completed six months in detention without charge on October 30.

In September, his family contacted the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution and was told that an investigation into Salama’s case was continuing.

In March, Salama published tweets questioning conventional interpretations of some passages of the hadith, and making comments about hadiths in online discussions.

He also posted a video on YouTube criticising a cleric for his political views. Unidentified online commentators subsequently called for his arrest and execution.

Human Rights Watch said another Saudi has been in custody for his tweets discussing religion since February 12. Saudi authorities arrested and detained Hamza Kashgari immediately after Malaysia extradited him, despite pleas by human rights organizations not to send him back to Saudi Arabia.

Kashgari had posted messages on his Twitter account that top Saudi government clerics said constituted apostasy.

“Salama’s case is a sad example of the way that Saudi authorities hold detainees for extended periods of time without charge and in violation of major human rights standards,” Stork said.

“Authorities have shown no evidence that he did anything more than express his opinion peacefully. He should be released immediately.”

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