Saudi Arabia Jails Human Rights Activist for 'Annoying Others'

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One thing that non-democratic regimes are really good at is stifling free discourse. But Saudi Arabia's state officials, who are notoriously sensitive to public dissent, are perhaps getting a bit lazy in their latest bid to silence critics. The Saudi government is accusing Mekhlef bin Daham al-Shammary, a 58-year-old human rights activist well-known within the country, of "annoying others." Al-Shammary was imprisoned a month ago in response to his online articles criticizing the kingdom's political and religious leadership. The United Arab Emirates-based National's Caryle Murphy reports on the Kafkaesque case:

He has not yet been formally charged, but "annoying others" is the accusation in his prison file, said Ibrahim al Mugaiteeb, founder of the Dammam-based Human Rights First. "He is a prisoner for a crime that is not even defined," added Mr al Mugaiteeb. "'Annoying others.' To me that’s a very funny and obscure accusation."

... Mr al Mugaiteeb added that Mr al Shammary’s detention was "illegal" because under Saudi law an arrested person is to be brought before a judge within 24 hours and that "Mekhlef up to now has not seen a judge …. I do not accept or condone what is happening to him."

Foreign Policy's David Kenner suggests, "The charges against Shammary may stem from an article he wrote rebuking another columnist for harsh attacks against the Iraqi Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani." Al-Shammary, who like most Saudis is Sunni Muslim, has earned an international reputation for his outspoken defense of Shia minorities against state discrimination. He was previously detained for three months after meeting with a prominent Saudi Shia cleric.

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