Walid abu al-Khair, a well-known human rights lawyer and Saudi activist, has received a jail sentence for 15 years for undermining the state of Saudi Arabia and insulting its political system.
The Saudi activist’s charge stems from the apparent violation of a recent anti-terrorism law which prohibits any civil act that, “disturbs public order, shakes the security of society, or subjects its national unity to danger, or obstructs the primary system of rule or harms the reputation of the state.”
This is not the first time al-Khair has faced the threat of jail time. On multiple occasions, the Saudi activist has been sentenced to varying amounts of time, though it has never reached a degree as intense as that of this most recent conviction. In his statement, al-Khair declares that he will not appeal the sentence because he does not see the legitimacy of the claim, and therefore believes it will fall apart when it comes time to book him.
The international reaction to the jailing of such a prominent voice has been negative thus far, with the Saudi researcher for Human Rights Watch saying, “Walid Abu al-Khair’s harsh sentence shows that Saudi Arabia has no tolerance for those who speak out about human rights and political reform and it will go to any length to silence them.” Saudi Arabia’s reaction simply shows the rest of the closely watching world that freedom of speech is less than valued.
By showing dissent from the Saudi king, al-Khair put himself in the crosshairs of the government. The Saudi activist has brought international attention to Saudi Arabia and this action has upset the government to the point that they believe he has represented them falsely and in a harsh light.
This incarceration demonstrates Saudi Arabia’s fear of the people, and the movement they could start if enough voices show disagreement. Countries that strive for a democratic state should allow the citizens to voice concerns; however, it appears this is not the case in Saudi Arabia. With reason, multiple countries, including the United States, have shown concern for the blatant disregard of human rights in this ongoing debacle with al-Khair, and begin to question the stability of the country.
– Elena Lopez