29 June 2015 — Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) strongly supports the awarding of the Ludovic-Trarieux Human Rights International Prize to Saudi human rights defender Waleed Abu al-Khair. Mr. Abu al-Khair is the 20th person ever to receive the prestigious award, joining a tradition that includes Nelson Mandela. Currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Abu al-Khair is unable to accept the prize. Daniel Arshack, Mr. Abu al-Khair’s U.S. counsel, will accept on his behalf.
Mr. Abu al-Khair is a lawyer and human rights activist who founded The Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA) in 2009. On 6 July 2014, the Specialized Criminal Court, Saudi Arabia’s national security tribunal, convicted him of “making international organizations hostile to the kingdom,” “publicly slandering the judiciary,” and “founding an unlicensed organization.” The court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, a 15 year travel ban, and a fine equivalent to $53,000. In January 2015, the appeals court ordered Mr. Abu al-Khair to complete his 15 year sentence without the possibility of parole.
“We welcome this recognition of Mr. Abu al-Khair’s vital work in Saudi Arabia,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “We hope that this award will draw attention to the Saudi government’s targeting of peaceful political activists, and we continue to assert that Mr. Abu al-Khair and other human rights defenders should be able to conduct their work without fearing retaliation.”
ADHRB calls upon the Government of Saudi Arabia to immediately vacate Waleed Abu al-Khair’s conviction, release him from custody, and drop all charges against him. Furthermore, ADHRB urges the government to allow for peaceful members of civil society and human rights defenders to conduct their work without fear of government reprisal.