The eighth hearing session of one of Saudi Arabia's first public trials of two prominent human rights activists Mohammad Al-Qahtani and Abdullah Al-Hamid was held today [Dec 8, 2012] at the Riyadh Criminal Court. In the last hearing session, the public prosecutor responded to their defense, and today, the defendants provided additional defense. Ninety supporters attended the session, including three women and correspondents from Al Jazeera and Sky News.
At the very beginning of the session, the judge ordered the arrest of female journalist Iman al-Qahtani for “providing false information to the court.” In the previous session, she showed a journalist identification from al-Haya newspaper where she used to work. The judge said that al-Haya correspondent was present and that he told him that she no longer works there. She responded that she had not claimed that her attendance was to represent al-Haya, but she had, in fact, obtained her id from them. Dr. al-Qahtani said that the judge himself presented false tweets provided by the secret police last session and that he should punish himself first. By the end of the session, the judge decided to cancel the arrest order after a long debate.
The judge also threatened, at the beginning of the session, to arrest the two activists if any of the attendees violated courtroom order. This comes after attendees’ warm applause for al-Hamid's remarks in the last hearing session. When Dr. al-Hamid objected, the judge said: “they are all your supporters!”
When the judge tried to ask Dr. al-Qahtani about some of his tweets, he refused to answer. The judge said that he had evidences that this was really his Twitter account: “it has your name and photo.”
آرائي واضحة، لكن لا تطلب مني الإفصاح عن حسابي على توتير لأن هذا ينتهك حرية التعبير…أنا لا أعترض من أجل نفسي ولكن من أجل الشباب الذين سيختطفون غدًا من أجل كتابة
My opinions are clear, so do not ask me to reveal my Twitter account, because this violates freedom of expression…I do not object for my own benefit, but for the benefit of young people that will be kidnapped because of some writing.
Dr. al-Hamid then started reading his defense. Responding to the “misspelling charge” (detailed in the post about the previous session), he said that it was normal for the public prosecutor, “being an employee of the repressive interior ministry”, to use the same techniques to distort activists. “Thanks god for the public trial that reveals their mentality and poor evidence.” Furthermore he said that any religious institution that fails to stand against totalitarianism “must be questioned.”
المُلك السعودي جائر لأنه جبري مستبد، أما الملك فقد ورث نظاما مستبدا وأملنا بعد وفاة وزير الداخلية: إن أوفى بوعده بأنه “سيضرب الظلم بسيف العدالة” فهو عادل، وإن أخلف فهو سلطان جائر.
The Saudi kingdom is repressive and suppressive, but the king himself only inherited this repressive regime and our hope is after the death of the interior minster. If he commits to what he promised, “to fight injustice with the justice sword, then he is just. If he doesn't, he is unjust.
On his views on Saudi judiciary:
إن القضاء السعودي لا ينصف الناس حقوقهم، ولا سيما الحقوق السياسية. هذا غير متوقع، لكنه مأمول. وهذا رأي، هل تحاكمون الناس على آرائهم؟
Saudi judiciary does not grant people's rights, and especially their political rights. We do not expect it, but we wish it. That is an opinion. Do you prosecute people for their opinions?
He concluded by saying:
التهم سخيفة…لكني رددت ليعرف الناس أسلوب المدعي العام في الغرف المظلمة وتركيزه على الثانويات وابتعاده عن الأساسيات.
The charges are absurd…but I responded so people can see what the public prosecutor does in dark [secret] courtrooms and his focus on secondary issues, instead of the main ones.
The public prosecutor made a few remarks after the two activists had read their defenses. He said that only a recognizable religious scholar can criticize the state Council of Ulema, not a literature graduate, referring to Dr. al-Hamid.
At the end of the session, the defendants asked for more time so they can provide more responses, but the judge refused and set the next hearing session for next Saturday, 15 December.