Trial of Saudi Teacher For Peaceful Protest Is An Affront To Basic Rights

February 23, 2012

Trial of Saudi Teacher For Peaceful Protest Is An Affront To Basic Rights

Human Rights Organization Considers Teacher Khaled al-Johani a "Prisoner of Conscience"

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, [email protected]

(New York) -- Amnesty International said today the trial of a Saudi Arabian school teacher for peaceful protest is "utterly unwarranted" and an affront to his basic rights.

Khaled al-Johani stood trial today before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, a tribunal set up in 2008 to try detainees held on terrorism-related charges. The court adjourned his case until early April.

Amnesty International considers al-Johani to be a prisoner of conscience, held for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly.

"Khaled al-Johani shouldn't be standing trial in any court for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly," said Philip Luther, interim director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program.

"The fact that he is appearing before a court that was originally established to handle terrorism-related charges only adds insult to injury."

"This trial is utterly unwarranted. We call on the Saudi authorities to release him and others held on similar charges immediately and unconditionally."

Khaled al-Johani, 42, is believed to have been the only protester who was able to reach the location of the planned "Day of Rage" demonstration on March, 11 2011 in Riyadh.

He was arrested by security forces and taken into detention within minutes of talking to BBC Arabic about the lack of freedoms in Saudi Arabia.

At his trial today the general prosecutor read out the list of charges against him, which included his support of demonstrations, his presence at the location of a demonstration and his communications with the foreign media in a manner that harmed the reputation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Since al-Johani's arrest, he has not been represented by a lawyer, including in today's trial session. However, the judge said al-Johani may appoint a lawyer of his own choice within a week.

Al-Johani has five children whose ages range between six months - a baby born while he was in detention -- and 12 years old.

Amnesty International has learned that another man is being tried at the same court on charges related to the planned protest on March 11 in Riyadh.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom and dignity are denied.

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