Waleed Abu al-Khair is a Saudi Arabian lawyer and the founder and director of Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, an organization that monitors and documents human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. He is well-known for promoting democratic and human rights reforms in Saudi Arabia, and has been an advocate for an elected parliament, an independent judiciary, a constitutional monarchy and the recognition of human rights. He has advocated on behalf of prisoners of conscience including Raif Badawi, and has wrien articles identifying human rights abuses and the need for legal reform. In October 2013, in response to his activism via Twier, and simply for doing his job of representing human rights defenders such as Raif Badawi and Samar Badawi, a case was filed against Abu al-Khair before the criminal court. In January 2015, Abu al-Khair was sentenced to 15 years in prison based on charges of seeking to discredit State legitimacy; inciting public opinion and insulting the judiciary; inciting international organizations against Saudi Arabia with the intent of ruining its reputation; adopting an unauthorized association, being its chairman. Abu al-Khair has been imprisoned since April 2014 and has been transferred several times to different prisons from Jeddah to Riyadh, in which he was subjected to sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, and denied access to his lawyers and family. Abu al-Khair was awarded the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize in 2015, which is Europe’s most prestigious award in recognition of human rights activism and was initially bestowed on Nelson Mandela. He remains behind bars.
HRF has filed an urgent appeal to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) requesting that it reiterate its call to the Saudi Arabian government to release Abu al-Khair. Based on HRF’s urgent appeal, the UNWGAD declared his detention as arbitrary. HRF has also published a law review article documenting the numerous violations to his right to freedom of expression under international law.
Charges: Seeking to discredit State legitimacy; inciting public opinion and insulting the judiciary; inciting international organizations against Saudi Arabia with the intent of ruining its reputation; adopting an unauthorized association; being its chairman
Jail term: 15 years
Dhahban Central Prison
Information provided by Human Rights Foundation