Saudi Arabia: Reformist Figures Refuse Secret Trial

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]:

#محاكمة_حسم دخل د. الحامد ود.القحطاني والمحامي عبدالعزيز الحصان وأستاذً فوزان الحربي على القاضي اما الحضور تم منعهم وهم في قاعة الانتظار
@Maha1410: Dr. al-Hamid, Dr. al-Qahtani, lawyer Abdulaziz al-Hussan and Mr. Fowzan al-Harbi went to the judge. The rest of the attendees were not allowed to enter and they are in the waiting area.

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]:

اخبرنا ابوبلال عن ان #محاكمة_حسم اليوم احتمال ان تكون سرية .
@alajmi01: [Dr. al-Hamid] told us that the trial might be held behind closed doors.

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]:

القاضي حماد العمر يصر على سرية المحاكمة ودعاة حقوق الانسان والاصلاح السياسي ينسحبون من الجلسة #محاكمة_الحامد_والقحطاني #محاكمة_حسم
@fowzanm: Judge Hamad al-Omar insisted that the trial would be private. Reformist human rights activists decided to leave the session.

Dr. al-Hamid said to those who attended [ar]:

يمكن أن نسكت عن حقنا في المحاكمة العلنية وقد لا يحدث لنا شيء. لكن ماذا سيمنعهم حينها من اقتياد أي منكم يا شباب لمحكمة سرية؟
We could [play along and] waive our right to a public trial and possibly nothing would happen to us, but if we did that, what would stop them from taking any of you, young men, to a secret trial?

Dr. al-Qahtani said [ar]:

كانوا يريدون أن يحاكمونا سرا وكان لديهم خطة أن يحيلونا للمحكمة الجزائية المختصة التي تدار من بل المباحث ونحن رفضنا. وهنا يريدون القيام بنفس الشيء ونحن لن نرضى. أصلا من مشى في هذا الطريق فهو مستعد للذهاب للسجون، ولا تخيفنا السجون.
[At first,] they had a plan to try us secretly in front of the Specialized Criminal Court that is manged by the secret police, but we refused. They want to do the same again, but we will not accept. Those who chose this [reformist] path are ready to go to prison. We are not afraid of prison.

al-Hamid and al-Qahtani speaking to people outside the court building, just before the riot police arrived. via @alajmi01

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.

وصول باص مكافحة الشعب مع بدء تفرق الناس #محاكمة_حسم #محاكمة_الحامد_والقحطاني
@fowzanm: A riot police bus arrived when people started to leave.
انباء اعتقال اثنين من الراغبين بحضور المحاكمة […]
@fowzanm: They are saying that two of those who wanted to attended the trial have been arrested […]

Both of them were released shortly, after signing a written pledge that they will not photograph court procedures again.

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