Friday, February 24, 2012

Amnesty raises voice against trial of Saudi protester who spoke out to the BBC

A 42-year-old Saudi who was arrested on 11 March 2011 for talking to BBC Arabic about the lack of freedoms in Saudi Arabia,  stood trial on Wednesday 22 February before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh. Khaled al-Johani was the only protester who was courageous enough to speak out on the planned “Day of Rage” demonstration on 11 March 2011 in Riyadh.
 Amnesty International considers al-Johani to be a prisoner of conscience, held for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly. Amnesty learnt that another man is being tried at the same court on charges relating to the 11 March planned protest in Riyadh.
In the video below can be seen what Johani told his interlocutors of the BBC, that day in Riyadh:

Amnesty's Philip Luther, Interim Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said that  “Khaled al-Johani shouldn’t be standing trial in any court for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly. The fact that he is appearing before a court that was originally established to handle terrorism-related charges only adds insult to injury. This trial is utterly unwarranted. We call on the Saudi authorities to release him and others held on similar charges immediately and unconditionally.” 
At his trial the General Prosecutor read out the list of charges against him, which included his support of demonstrations, his presence at the location of a demonstration; and his communications with the foreign media in a manner that harmed the reputation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Since his arrest, sal-Johhani has not been represented by a lawyer, including in Wednesday's session. However, the judge said al-Johani may appoint a lawyer of his own choice within a week.
Khaled al-Johani, a teacher, has five children whose ages range between six months - a baby born while he was in detention – and 12 years old.

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