Waleed Abulkhair, the Saudi human rights activist who was Raif Badawi’s attorney in his blasphemy trial, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison in that country for “inciting public opinion against the government” and “insulting the country’s leaders and judiciary.”
He was also ordered to pay the sum of 200,000 Saudi riyals ($53,000). And, according to official Saudi news agency SPA, he is required to close any websites affiliated with the organization he heads, the Monitor of Human Rights Saudi Arabia. The government said the group was run illegally as an unlicensed organization that attempted to prejudice the public against the government.
“This is the price Abulkhair was expecting as a result of his defense of human rights and standing with the oppressed,” the group said in a statement.
Abulkhair has called for government reforms including the creation of a constitutional monarchy, the release of political prisoners and the expansion of women’s rights.
His wife, Samar Badawi, told CNN her husband does not accept the verdict, nor will he appeal it, as he doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of the court or its ruling. Badawi, who was present when the sentence was read, added, “This verdict was far from just. Waleed was tried and sentenced simply for his work as a human rights activist.”
Human Rights Watch, which has been closely monitoring the trial, condemned the verdict shortly after it was issued.
“Waleed Abu al-Khair’s harsh sentence shows that Saudi Arabia has no tolerance for those who speak out about human rights and political reform and it will go to any length to silence them,” said HRW Saudi researcher Adam Coogle.
And remember, Saudi Arabia has a seat on the UN Human Rights Council while they’re imprisoning human rights activists who defend those whose human rights the kingdom has crushed. This is madness.