Saudi Arabia: First human rights defenders sentenced under leadership of ‘reformer’ Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman

Responding to the sentencing today of two prominent human rights activists Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi by the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh to 14 and seven years in prison respectively, Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns for the Middle-East at Amnesty International said:
“The harsh sentencing of Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi, who should never have been prosecuted in the first place, confirms our fears that the new leadership of Mohamed Bin Salman is determined to silence civil society and human rights defenders in the Kingdom.
“The crackdown on members of the human rights community has continued unabated, with almost all the country’s most prominent human rights defenders now behind bars. These actions, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, fly in the face of his recently declared ambitions to modernize the Kingdom.
“If Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is truly intent on bringing reforms to Saudi Arabia, he must ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including human rights defenders, detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights.”
Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi were brought to trial before the SCC in October 2016. They were presented with a list of charges that include, among other things, “participating in setting up an organization and announcing it before getting an authorization”, “dividing national unity, spreading chaos and inciting public opinion by preparing, drafting and publishing statements that are harmful to the reputation of the Kingdom and its judicial and security institutions”, and “publishing information about their interrogations despite signing pledges to refrain from doing so”.
On 25 May 2017, Mohammad al-Otaibi was detained in Saudi Arabia after he was deported from Qatar, as he was en-route to Norway where he had been granted refugee status.