An exiled Saudi human rights activist has censured the judicial process in the kingdom, stating that trial sessions there are not legal and genuine, and are indeed a cover for further suppression amid a widening crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against rights campaigners and intellectuals.
“While Saudi authorities make claims about the integrity of the judiciary and fairness of the judgments, judges actually obtain papers condemning the defendants even before the trials are held. Therefore, they rule based on confessions extracted under duress, and categorically reject all attempts to defend the detainees,” Taha al-Haji told Arabic-language Mirat al-Jazeera news website in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.
He added, “Saudi trials are not legal, as they are bogus and merely meant to burnish the image of authorities. Such trials are held only to claim that the defendants had obtained their rights before any verdicts were passed against them.”
Haji further highlighted that the Al Saud regime has been stigmatized by oppression as it rejects any dissenting or opposing opinion.
“Today, there is no person inside the country who can speak out and publicly oppose the rule of the Al Saud. No one can demand reforms or legitimate rights at all. The authorities cannot accept any voice that contradicts theirs. This was the case in the past; nevertheless, current authorities led by Mohammed bin Salman have set a brutal and unprecedented dictatorship that has crossed all red lines socially, culturally, religiously and politically. They do not accept criticism or any call for reforms. They have gone beyond that limit, and do not accept even neutral opinion, moderate voice or even silence. The regime presses silent people to glorify it, otherwise they will not be granted mercy. The elderly, women and children have not witnessed such an unprecedented campaign of mass trials and executions over the past years ever since (King) Salman and his son took power,” the human rights activist highlighted.
“Saudi authorities have moved from religious fundamentalism to secular radicalism. They have kept exercising oppression and even expanded its scope. Such an approach has therefore prompted Saudi men and women to immigrate from the country and seek asylum abroad,” he added.
Haji also pointed to the situation in Saudi Arabia’s Shia-populated Eastern Province, saying that local residents of al-Ahsa and Qatif regions have been facing blatant discrimination, and that they cannot hold sensitive positions in public institutions and departments.
“Saudi authorities initially dealt with the (protest) movement (in Qatif region) with great caution, fearing that the popular demonstrations would depose Al Saud before adopting a policy of brutal repression against the demonstrators,” he underscored.
Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with government forces increasing security measures across the province.
Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.
In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of Riyadh. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.
-Saudi Rights activist