Transparency ‘needed’ for trials in from Saudi Arabia
JEDDAHInternational human rights groups have asked Saudi Arabia for permission to observe the court cases of four rights activists in a country they have accused of conducting unfair trials.
Saudi lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair, writer Mikhlif al-Shammari, and professors and rights advocates Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammad al-Qahtani face charges that tarnishing the reputation of the state, cooperating with international rights organizations and encouraging protests.
Two of the six groups seeking access, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have in the past criticized the conservative monarchy for holding trials they say are unfair, and have accused it of jailing political prisoners. The other four groups that signed the letter are Front Line Defenders, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Alkarama and the Gulf Center for Human Rights.
“These people advocated for the human rights in Saudi Arabia ... They now find themselves facing criminal charges stemming from their human rights activities,” said the letter sent to Justice Minister Mohammed al-Issa. A Saudi Justice Ministry spokesman did not respond to requests but the Interior Ministry said there are no political prisoners in the kingdom.