On 5 April, Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, a 37-year-old Red Crescent worker, was sentenced by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh to 20 years in prison to be followed by a 20-year travel ban on charges relating to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression. His trial was marred by violations, including possible torture used to extract a “confession.” He was initially arrested on 12 March 2018 by state security forces who failed to present a warrant, confiscated his phone, and took him to an unknown location. He was then out of contact for almost two years before he was finally allowed to call his family for the first time on 12 February 2020. The Saudi authorities must grant Abdulrahman al-Sadhan’s immediate and unconditional release.
Please ask the King to:
- Release Abdulrahman al-Sadhan immediately and unconditionally as he was sentenced on charges related solely to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression;
- Order an independent and effective investigation into Abdulrahman al-Sadhan’s two-year enforced disappearance and his claims that he was tortured and otherwise ill-treated.
His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: 011 966 11 403 3125 (please keep trying)
Mr. Sulaiman Abdulkareem M. Al Aqueel
Embassy of Saudi Arabia
201 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 1K6
Fax: 613 237 0567
Phone: 613 237 4100
Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, born on 28 May 1983, is a Saudi national. He holds a university degree in business and works as an assistant to the Head of the Saudi Arabian Red Crescent Society in Riyadh. He is currently held in Al Ha’ir Prison in Riyadh where he is serving a 20-year prison sentence issued by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh on 5 April 2021.
In his first session on 3 March 2020, the charges against al-Sadhan included “funding terrorism”, “support for a terrorist entity (ISIS) and advocating for it”, “preparing, storing and sending what would prejudice public order and religious values, “adopting an extremist approach calling for the exclusion of women and depriving them of the rights guaranteed to them by law” and “offending state institutions and officials and spreading false rumours about them”.
On 11 March, a second hearing took place and was attended by Abdulrahman al-Sadhan’s father and a court-appointed lawyer who was only permitted a 40-minute meeting with Abdulrahman al-Sadhan before the hearing. For an hour only, his father and lawyer were allowed to examine a list of “evidence” against him, which consisted of over 200 pages of tweets extracted from the satirical twitter accounts and a two-page document containing “confessions” made by Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, likely under duress, his family believes. He had been forced to sign and stamp the “evidence” documents which neither his father nor his lawyer received a copy of.
On 17 March, a third hearing took place during which Abdulrahman al-Sadhan’s lawyer presented the defence and his father submitted a request for a temporary release of his son, but this request was ignored. The fourth session took place on 22 March in the absence of Abdulrahman al-Sadhan’s father and lawyer, whom the authorities failed to inform on time. On 5 April, the Specialized Criminal Court sentenced Abdulrahman al-Sadhan to 20 years in prison followed by 20 years on travel ban. He plans to appeal the verdict.
Amnesty International’s research shows that through the Specialized Criminal Court, which was initially set up as an anti-terror court, peaceful activists, religious clerics and members of the Shi’a minority are often subjected to grossly unfair trials, given lengthy prison sentences, and even sentenced to death based on so-called “confessions” that are extracted under torture. Several individuals have already been executed. This court is one of the Saudi Arabian state’s most powerful tools for muzzling critical voices in Saudi Arabia.
Amnesty International is calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all individuals detained solely for peacefully advocating for reforms and defending basic human rights. Those currently serving sentences include Mohammed al-Bajadi, founding member of the now disbanded Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) and prominent human rights defender; and Salman al-Awda, a reformist cleric who is facing a death sentence.
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