The third hearing session in the ongoing trials of two prominent Saudi human rights activists was held earlier today, September 8, 2012. Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid, who are among the co-founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, are facing charges that include inciting the public to protest and impeding the country’s development.
In the previous session, the judge decided that hearing sessions will not be public, after tens of reformists attended the trial, which is a surprising number in Saudi politics.
Earlier today, when it was time to start the hearing session, a policeman asked Dr. al-Qahtani and Dr. al-Hamid, who were sitting in the waiting area, to come without the rest of the attendees. They got inside the courtroom with their two lawyers. Dr. al-Qahtani's wife, Maha al-Qahtani, tweeted [ar]:
Soon after that, they got out for private consultation. Dr. al-Hamid told the attendees that they will accept a secret hearing session, provided that the next one will be public. One of the attendees, Sultan al-Ajmi, tweeted [ar]:
The judge insisted that today's hearing session would be private, and refused to give any assurances for upcoming sessions. Dr. al-Qahtani's lawyer, Fowzan al-Harbi, tweeted [ar]:
Dr. al-Hamid said to those who attended [ar]:
Dr. al-Qahtani said [ar]:
Outside the court building, Dr. al-Hamid and al-Qahtani's talked to a group of people, including those who attended, condemning political trials and saying that the reason why the judge did not want a public hearing was that many would testify in public against the Interior Ministry's systemic torture. Soon after that, a bus full of riot policemen arrived to disperse them.
Both of them were released shortly, after signing a written pledge that they will not photograph court procedures again.