Prisoners of Conscience

Al-Awda Trial Delayed Amid Threats to Execute Him

A Saudi court postponed the trial of the preacher Salman al-Awda for several months, at a time when the prosecutor is demanding his execution, after being charged with 37 counts.

On September 7, 2017, the Saudi authorities arrested al-Awda, 61, from his home without a warrant, just hours after he published a twitter calling for reconciliation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah al-Awda, the son of the prominent preacher, said the court postponed his father’s trial for several months.

“An update regarding the trial of the secret parent today, in which the prosecution is demanding a death, is a tribute to the father because of his peaceful public scientific activity: the hearing was postponed until several months from now,” he said in a tweet.

In a second tweet, al-Awda’s son wrote that his father did not attend court, adding that his next trial would be in December.

Abdullah and Amnesty International said earlier that al-Awda would be on Sunday before a secret court in the kingdom, and the organization expressed its fear that he would be executed.

Al-Awda faces 37 charges that his son described as “loose and ridiculous.” He said that one of the strange charges that led to the return was his failure to pray to the ruler, in addition to wide charges such as possessing banned books.”

He was detained incommunicado, in solitary confinement for the first five months of his detention, and was not allowed to contact his family or a lawyer, except one short phone call a month after his arrest, Amnesty International said.

In January 2018, he was transferred to hospital because of his deteriorating health and was only allowed to contact his family after a month.

The Al-Saud system prevents human rights organizations from seeing the conditions of their prisoners, especially politicians. Riyadh imposes secret secrecy on this file, as has already rejected calls from several international human rights organizations to improve the conditions of detainees and release them.

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said: “We are gravely concerned that Sheikh Salman al-Awda could be sentenced to death and executed. Since his arrest almost two years ago, Sheikh al-Awda has gone through a terrible ordeal including prolonged pre-trial detention, months of solitary confinement, incommunicado detention, and other ill-treatment – all flagrant violations to his right to a fair trial.”

She added, “Instead of moving ahead with this sham trial, they must immediately and unconditionally release Sheikh al-Awda and drop all charges against him.”

“Sheikh al-Awda has been calling for a more inclusive society that would end the marginalization of Saudi Shi’a citizens. For this, he is being punished. In the same way, women and advocates of women’s rights who have called for greater rights, are similarly being punished,” Maalouf said.

For more than two years, the Saudi authorities have been waging massive security campaigns and arrests targeting even Arab communities, including Palestinians, Jordanians, Syrians and African communities within the kingdom, some of whom have not yet been identified.

The arrests included hundreds of Saudi activists, lawyers, journalists, writers and preachers who apparently tried to express their opinion, which opposes changes in Saudi Arabia, amid human rights demands to reveal their fate and bring justice to them.

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