[QODLink]
Archive
Saudi reformers' sentences upheld

A Saudi court has upheld jail terms of six to nine years for three prominent campaigners who called for political reforms in the absolute monarchy.

Last Modified: 24 Jul 2005 22:01 GMT
A Riyadh judge rejected appeals for the reform campaigners

A Saudi court has upheld jail terms of six to nine years for three prominent campaigners who called for political reforms in the absolute monarchy.

Ali Ghothami, their campaigners' lawyer, said on Sunday he was told by a Riyadh judge the court had rejected appeals by the three men - two university lecturers and a poet - against the sentences passed in May.

The cases of Matruk al-Falih, Abd Allah al-Hamad and Ali al-Dumaini, who had petitioned for Saudi Arabia to move towards a constitutional monarchy, have highlighted the limits of the conservative kingdom's modest reform programme.

Saudi Arabia held partial, men-only local elections this year. But supporters of the three reformists say their treatment shows the royal family will not tolerate any questioning of its power.

"These sentences are unfair and have no legal basis," said a statement issued in the name of reformers calling themselves "supporters of the constitution and civil society". It urged Saudi Arabia's rulers to intervene and free the men.

US criticism

The three were arrested in March 2004, along with nine others who later were released. In their protracted trial, two of the three refused to defend themselves in protest at the hearings taking place behind closed doors.

Rice described the campaigners
as 'brave citizens'

Their arrest and sentencing drew rare public criticism from the United States, which has pushed for reform in ally Saudi Arabia since the 11 September 2001 attacks. 

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the campaigners as brave citizens demanding accountable government in the world's biggest oil exporter. On a tour of the Middle East, which included Saudi Arabia, last month she said their actions "should not be a crime in any country".

Saudi Arabia said the case was a matter for the courts and that it would not accept changes imposed from outside.

Call for reform

During sentencing in May, judges said the men's call for reform had incited people at a critical time in Saudi Arabia's history when "its enemies are lurking and looking for excuses to intervene in the name of reform".

In their appeal, the men said the case against them was riddled with judicial violations, including disagreement over which courts could try them, and a lack of impartiality by the panel of three judges which sentenced them.

Judges allowed prosecutors to introduce evidence that was not related to the initial charges, according to the appeal. After one public court session in August, the remaining sessions were held behind closed doors.

Source:
Reuters
Topics in this article
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
Spirits are high in Scotland's 'Whisky Capital of the World' with one distillery thirsty for independence.
President Poroshenko arrives in Washington on Thursday with money and military aid on his mind, analysts say.
Early players in private medicine often focused on volume over quality, turning many Chinese off for-profit care.
Al Jazeera asked people across Scotland what they think about the prospect of splitting from the United Kingdom.
Blogger critical of a lack of government transparency faces defamation lawsuit from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
join our mailing list