Saudi Activist: “This is an inquisition, prosecuting us for our opinions”

The seventh hearing session of the ongoing trial of the two prominent human rights activists Mohammad Al-Qahtani and Abdullah Al-Hamid was held today [Dec 1, 2012] at the Riyadh Criminal Court. In the last hearing session, the defendants responded to the charges, and today, the public prosecutor provided more ‘clarifications.’ Seventy-nine supporters attended the session, including three women. Moreover, correspondents from Al Jazeera, Sky News and AFP were present.

The public prosecutor started by explaining that the two activists were not actually accused of “impeding the country's development”, but rather “trying to impede the country's development.” He said that “the difference between the two is very obvious to those with brains.” He cited their demands of peaceful demonstrations and political parties are strong evidence. He also said that: “anyone that follows what the two are writing, finds no mention of any positive aspect. This proves that they are only looking for flaws”.

The public prosecutor added a new evidence to prove Dr. al-Hamid's disrespect to state clergy: misspelling the last name of Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen, who is a very respected ultraconservative cleric. In one of his tweets, al-Hamid was accused of spelling Uthaymeen's last name in a way that makes it sound like “Muhammad, the son of the sterile.” One Saudi Twitter user showed that iPhone's ‘autocorrected’ the Arabic spelling of ‘Uthaymeen’ to make it read like ‘sterile’. Saudi activist Sultan al-Fifi sarcastically expressed his surprise:

لم أكن أعلم أن ملاحقة مرتكبي الأخطاء المطبعية من صلاحيات هيئة التحقيق والادعاء العام :) #محاكمة_حسم

@SultanAlfifi: I did not know that tracking misspellers was one of the tasks of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution :)

The attendees, after the end of the session. via @alajmi01

In the previous session, the judge said that he had CDs of video recordings for the two activists and he read some tweets by Dr. al-Qahtani, who raised his concern today that he judge might by talking to the public prosecutor outside the courtroom, which violates neutrality. The judge said that he had obtained these tweets and CDs through ‘official channels’. Dr. al-Qahtani responded: “All evidence must be presented here, before us.” The judge said that they only wanted to waste time by such objections. Dr. al-Hamid said: “We are not trying to influence your ruling, but there are procedures that must be followed.”

Dr. al-Hamid then asked:

Those who say that demonstrations are prohibited, what have they achieved? Have they been able to restore stolen lands? Peaceful struggle is the way… This is an inquisition, prosecuting us for our opinion. You are prosecuting us because we believe in peaceful struggle.

When the judge said that the two activists were not able to prove that the arbitrary detainment of over 30,000 people, they said, once again, “open the prisons and you will find out.” “It is liking asking someone to count camel hair” they added.

The judge asked al-Hamid, “what do you mean by peaceful struggle?” al-Hamid responded:

This is an inquisition, prosecuting us for our opinion. You are prosecuting because we believe in peaceful struggle. I swear to God that whether you sentence us to three months or 30 years in prison, we will continue our peaceful struggle and young people will follow on after us.

The courtroom, full of young men, erupted in applause, which made the judge very frustrated. He ordered the policemen to get all attendees out of the courtroom and he ordered the detainment of one of them for 24 hours, but he canceled the order after Dr. al-Qahtani had asked him to do so.

Al-Qahtani tweets:

@MFQahtani: #ACPRA_trial ended @ 10:30 am, after audience violated court order by clapping &chanting during hearing, details are latter. #Saudi #acprahr

The next hearing session will be held next Saturday, December 8.

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