Those who seek fairness from the Saudi justice system is tantamount to jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
The Saudi judiciary has become one of the tools of state-sponsored terror. Who deserves to be prosecuted peaceful activists or the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution?
The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) condemns the massacre of justice in the trial of peaceful constitutional reform and civil society advocates, aka the "Jeddah prisoners." Moreover, ACPRA reiterates its call to immediately and unconditionally release of all peaceful activists because they overstayed the maximum remand limit allowed under the statute.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Monday, May 23rd 2011.
ACPRA has been following with great worries the court proceedings of the following sixteen peaceful reformers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia:
1. Suliman Ibrahim Al-Reshoudi.
2. Dr. Mousa Mohmmed Al-Qarni.
3. Dr. Abdulrahman Abdullah Al-Shameri.
4. Essam Hassan Bassrawi.
5. Saifaldeen Faisal Al-Sharief.
6. Dr. Saud Hassan Al-Hashemi.
7. Abdulrahman Bin Saddiq Khan.
8. Dr. Abdulaziz Suliman Al-Khoraiji.
9. Fahd Mohammed Al-Qurashi.
10. Walled Ali Al-Omari.
11. Abdullah Ahmed Al-Jandali.
12. Radah Gharbi Al-Mareshi.
13. Ali Khosaif Al-Qarni.
14. Moutasim Waheed Mukhtar.
15. Khalid Hesham Al-Abassi.
16. Salih Ali Al-Rashedi.
First, their arrest is arbitrary.
Second, they have been in detention for more than four years, with neither charges nor court rules that justify their long-term imprisonment.
Third, fabricated charges! ACPRA has received a copy of the alleged charges put forward by the "Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution" (BIP) against the sixteen defendants. ACPRA was surprised of BIP's hidden and suspicious activities, the BIP's head enlisted himself and his organization to criminalize reformers and honest individuals instead of protecting rule of law, in accordance with the minister of interior's (his boss) whims. ACPRA has mounting evidence and testimonies that will hold BIP and its head liable for practices and violations of accused and prisoners' basic rights. BIP's function has transformed from an impartial judge to a partner in fabrications.
Time will come where flagrant human rights violations would be investigated, such as torture in prison, long-term arbitrary detention, and the hidden role perpetrated by BIP. Especially, Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor (Mohammed Fahd Al-Abdullah) who refused to accept frequent reports about cases of torture in prison and arbitrary detention. ACPRA, indeed, has authentic testimonies of BIP's head involvement in documenting coerced and forced confessions of prisoners inside their solitary confinements without presence of any attorney representing the accused, and without legal due process to protect the weak party inside secret police black holes.
Fourth, a very long detention: perhaps the most flagrant violation involving BIP is that it has tried the sixteen accused in a court of law after more than four years in a clear contradiction of the statute. Article 114 of the Saudi penal code clearly argues: " the arrest be extended for a period or successive periods none of which shall exceed thirty days and their aggregate shall not exceed six months from the date of the arrest of the accused...the accused shall be transferred to the competent court, or be released."
Fifth, the indictment against the sixteen defendants is a proof of BIP failure to provide legal protection for the accused, who have been detained for long time, during which a severe psychological and physical torture has been inflicted on them. BIP's role came as an attempt to rescue the Directorate of General Investigation (DGI) of its predicament by canceling the Grievance Board's trial last year. Hence, BIP has taken part in obstructing justice, criminalizing innocents, and the continue suffering of the prisoners and their families. BIP's suspicious and complacent role has been clearly manifested by the charges against the sixteen defendants who are being tried in a secret trial, the indictments don't rely on clear violations of the law committed by the accused.
Sixth, what comes into mind of anyone who may read the indictment is that it had been written in the era of dark ages and decadence, where a lot of obsolete historical details were cited, and loose accusations were listed which can't be legally adopted. For instance, "defying authority holders", "disobedience of guardians", and the alleged "armed revolt against ruler" are some of the outrageous charges. These accusations are clearly a blatant attempt to confiscate the freedom of expression, criminalize reformists and human rights advocates, and abort all political-reform initiatives that may help our country overcome its impasse. Thus, the "public prosecutor" becomes a defender of tyranny, facilitator of serious human rights abuses, and guarantor of people enslavement at a time where the international community obliterated slavery and servitude. Hence, BIP has become at the service of outlaws in the Saudi ministry of interior.
Seventh, the indictment list consists of three main sections which illustrates its author's goal in criminalizing innocents and slaughtering justice. The first section has been drafted to appeal to the international community, western countries and the United States in particular, in an attempt to link the defendants' peaceful activities to violent groups. A lot of charges were directed to the accused, which are just nonsense without any tangible physical evidence. The second part of the charges, public prosecutor attempted to pit religious officialdom, that dominates judicial institutions, against defendants by accusing them of criticizing 'Mohammed Bin Abdulwahab' and the clergy. While the third section focuses on the real reasons for their detention, which is the accused attempt to establish an NGO in order to promote human rights and political reforms. Moreover, the defendants' signing of several reform petitions which were well-received by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Hence, is it possible that BIP, its members, and MOI are attempting to be more monarch than the king himself?!
Eighth, extra judicial trials! The court proceedings have kicked of in a private villa in the port city Jeddah, located on the West part of Saudi Arabia, and wasn't held in a known court house which is under the judicial authority control. The "court" refused to grant attendance to defendant's families, concerned citizens, journalist, and human rights activists. During the trial, instead, only the presiding judge, two BIP's members, and the lawyer who represents all the sixteen defendants; much worse, the court allows DGI's agents to be present in the courtroom. The court brings each defendant alone to the courtroom in an attempt to extract confessions regarding some charges that lack physical tangible evidence to support them.
Ninth, the presiding judge over the trial, thus, becomes a member of the interrogation team! How could suspects be detained for more than four years without conclusive evidence which can prove their guilt in a court of law beyond any reasonable doubt?
Tenth, Saudi justice is selective in conducting litigations! While MOI and BIP insisted on trying peaceful activists in a secret court trial, they bragged about holding hearing for those allegedly involved in acts of violence in the so-called "Yanbu cell", where international news agencies and human rights representatives attended the trial. The news of the "public trial" occupied front pages of most local newspapers. Which begs the question: what motivated MOI and BIP to push for a public trial in this particular case? Is the reason due to the presence of conclusive evidence against the accused? While the 'Special Criminal Court' (SCC) holds thousands of secret trials, latest of which is the trying of tens of defendants allegedly accused of taking parts in demonstrations. Does MOI insist on holding secret court trials whenever it wants to criminalize defendants even without any evidence? That may explain why MOI currently detains tens of thousands of prisoners without any legal due process or court rule, not to mention widely-reported presence of prisoners who completed their sentences yet are still languishing behind bars. Hence, what type of justice MOI, BIP, and the ministry of justice are talking about?
Eleventh, the presiding judge over reformists' trial acts as an opponent to the accused and their lawyer, conspicuously siding with DGI's agents and BIP's representatives. In several occasions, the judge threatened the lawyer with punishments, used tough language against him, and refused to instruct the court clerk to record the lawyer's remarks. Furthermore, the presiding judge refused to examine alleged evidence, and refused to bring in and listen to witnesses who are directly linked to the case, while he found it sufficient to take into account only DGI's allegations stated in the indictment.
Twelfth, defendants' lawyer was forced to withdraw of the case, then the presiding judge filed a complaint to the ministry of justice against the attorney. After the sixteen defendants' only counsel presented the court with all defense legal memoranda, he decided to quit the trial because he can no longer tolerate the presiding judge's severe attitude toward him. The judge continued to attack the attorney whenever he has the opportunity in a conduct that lacks any legal justification, in a flagrant breach of fairness of international standard of impartial court trial. When the defense counsel requested the judge to relieve him from continuing the "kangaroo trial", the judge asked him to come to notify him of the complain the judge filed to the ministry of justice in what the judge called "the lawyer's misconduct in court."
Thirteenth, a mock trial! It seems the presiding judge and BIP's representatives have been programmed by MOI to incriminate defendants regardless to how innocent they are. In MOI's customary law: " political opponents are guilty even if proven innocent"; the indictment presented by BIP and the court are just a play justify MOI-perpetrated human rights violations.
Fourteenth, one odd decision by the court is that it decided to release six of the defendants, conditioned on signed commitments by guarantors. those who have released are:
1. Moutasim Waheed Mukhtar.
2. Ali Khosaif Al-Qarni.
3. Waleed Ali Al-Omari.
4. Abdullah Ahmed Al-Refaee.
5. Salih Ali Al-Rashedi.
6. Khalid Hesham Al-Abassi.
What a tragically slain justice!
After more than four years in prison, bailed release!
People can understand a defendant to be released on bail during the first six months of the detention, but after four years is one of oddities of the Saudi justice system. If all the sixteen accused pose a threat to national security, under which MOI justified their long-term imprisonment and denying them the right for a fair and public court trial, then why now and in the middle of the "play" (trial) MOI decided to release the six? Isn't this irrefutable proof that they pose no risk to national security as claimed by MOI?
Fifteenth, in top of all of that, MOI insists on trying them in secret court because it wants to pass any cruel and unjust punishments away from the public watchful eye. This is the status of Saudi justice system, this long statement is just to cite evidence of human rights and constitutional reform advocates' argument: " The Saudi judiciary is merely one of the tools of terror production."
In conclusion, ACPRA demands the following:
1. ACPRA renews its call of immediate and unconditional release of all sixteen prisoners, especially that MOI has no case against them according to their indictment.
2. Everyone knows that all sixteen reformers have been imprisoned as a result of a stormy encounter with the minister of interior in the wake of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and Gaza Strip in the Summer of 2006. Those reformers petitioned the king requesting a permit to hold a public rally condemning these heinous crimes. They were summoned by the minister of interior in his office in Jeddah, along with BIP's head: Mohammed Fahd Al-Alabdullah, who was in the minister's office to wines the discussions that had taken place during the meeting. Al-Abdullah even had accompanied some of them outside the minister's office, as they were leaving, to threaten them with arrest. Therefore, this long-term arbitrary detention and psychological and physical torture the accused detainees experienced have been only the result of the minister of interior's hubris, and his fury against them that he in one occasion expressed clearly in a meeting.
3. ACPRA calls upon all human rights activists to compile BIP's breaches of its function, as identified by local statute and international standard, to build a case against BIP's head to be filed in the Court of Grievances.
4. ACPRA recalls the injustice inflicted upon tens of thousands of detainees in MOI's secret prisons, whom are deprived of their natural rights as guaranteed by law. This ill-treatments are direct causes for further congested atmosphere not only against MOI and its security apparatus, but also against the whole political regime (which is a tribal and police state). This scenario would threaten the country's national security and its national unity in the light of the sweeping winds of change currently blowing across the Arab region. Once again, ACPRA calls for returning to the right and not to continue in the wrong before it's too late with probable dire consequences. The wise would draw lessons from others' fates.
The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association