The hope for reforms in Saudi Arabia remain a roller coaster ride for civil libertarians. On Saturday, a Saudi Arabian court sentenced two prominent political and human rights activists to at least 10 years in prison for protesting the policies of the Kingdom and speaking with the media. Mohammed Fahd al-Qahtani (shown right) and Abdullah Hamad are founding members of the banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, known as Acpra, which documents human rights abuses. The group also has called for a constitutional monarchy and elections. The exercise of basic rights of free speech and association that led to the banning of the group and now the sentencing of its leaders.
While Saudi Arabia continually objects to the treatment of Muslims in other countries and demands equal treatment, it denies basic free speech and free exercise rights to people in the Kingdom. The nation remains under the tight grip of the ruling family and clerics of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam.
Qahtani was sentenced to 10 years. Hamad was told he must complete the remaining six years of a previous jail term for his political activities and serve an additional five years. In one reform, the trial itself was public but the government continues to prosecute people for exercising the basic human right of free speech. The Interior Ministry insists that the men tried to stir up protests and spread “false information” on social media. Who needs false information when the Saudi Interior Ministry supplies a steady diet of abuses for public consumption?
Qahtani is an economics professor whose courage clearly equals his intellect. The refusal of these civil libertarians to yield is an inspiration for people around the globe. They are willing to surrender their life and liberty for the Saudi people and someday I expect they will be vindicated for their sacrifices.
Source: CS Monitor