Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani

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Mohammad Fahad Muflih al-Qahtani[1][2]
محمد فهد مفلح القحطاني
ACPRA 7th Trial Session 7 (cropped).JPG
Mohammad al-Qahtani in December 2012
Born 1965/1966 (age 52–53)[3]
Nationality Saudi
Occupation economics professor at the Institute of Diplomatic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Saudi Arabia)[4]
Known for co-founding of ACPRA[1]
Children 5[4]

Mohammad Fahad Muflih al-Qahtani (محمد فهد مفلح القحطاني, born 1965 or 1966)[3] is an economics professor[4] and co-founder[1] of the Saudi Arabian human rights organisation Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) and, during 2011, its leader.[5] Alkarama described al-Qahtani as "one of [the Saudi Arabian judiciary's] most eloquent and fervent critics".[6] On 9 March 2013, al-Qahtani was sentenced to ten years in prison and ten years of travel ban after being convicted of several charges relating to his human rights activities.[7]

Education and academic career[edit]

Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani has a PhD from Indiana University in the United States.[4] As of June 2012, he was employed as an economics professor at the Institute of Diplomatic Affairs of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[4]

Human rights activities[edit]

2008 hunger strike[edit]

In November 2008, al-Qahtani was among 20 human rights activists who started a two-day hunger strike in protest against the imprisonment without fair, public trials of 11 activists, including Suliman al-Reshoudi and former university professors.[8][9][10] Al-Qahtani stated that petitions calling for the activists to receive fair trials and better conditions of detention were ignored, and that freedom of speech and freedom of assembly were not respected in Saudi Arabia.[8][10]

2009 Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association[edit]

Al-Qahtani co-founded the Saudi Arabian human rights organisation Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) in October 2009 together with Mohammed Saleh al-Bejadi and nine others.[1] As of June 2012, he continued to be active in ACPRA.[6]

2011 Prisoner Demonstration[edit]

On 5 Feb 2011, about 40 women demonstrated in front of the Interior Ministry in central Riyadh, calling for the release of prisoners. Mohammed al-Qahtani later told Reuters, "The women demand to free people imprisoned in the campaign against terrorism. Many people have been held up for a long time without trial, or have nothing to do with al Qaeda." [1] According to an ACPRA website, they were carrying signs that said, "free our prisoners or try them in a fair public court." [2]

2012 court case[edit]

Charges and trial[edit]

Al-Qahtani was charged in a Saudi court on 18 June 2012 on 11 charges related to his human rights activism, including:

setting up an unlicensed organisation, 'breaking allegiance to the ruler', accusing the judiciary of allowing torture and accepting confessions made under duress, describing the Saudi Arabian authorities as a police state, inciting public opinion by accusing authorities of human rights violations, and turning international organizations against the Kingdom.[3]

If convicted, penalties for al-Qahtani could include a 5-year prison term, a travel ban and a fine.[6] Another founding member of ACPRA, Mohammed al-Bejadi received a four-year jail sentence in April 2012.

One of the charges against al-Qahtani was "sending 'false information presented as facts to the official international mechanisms.'" The human rights organisation Alkarama interpreted this to refer to al-Qahtani's founding role in ACPRA and ACPRA's work with Alkarama in preparing documents to give to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.[6]

Mohammad al-Qahtani's trial started on 1 September 2012 with nine charges, including "setting up an unlicensed organisation and breaking allegiance to the king". The trial of Abdullah al-Hamid, another ACPRA co-founder, started on the same day.[11] Supporters of al-Qahtani and al-Hamid were initially present in the courtroom. Text and photo reports of the trial were published live on the social networking services Twitter and Facebook,[12] which was described by the Sebastian Usher of the BBC as "a measure of transparency that is unusual in Saudi Arabia".[11] The judge ordered some of the audience to leave the court room. According to Al Arabiya, those ordered to leave were mobile phone users,[12] and according to the BBC, those ordered to leave were al-Qahtani's and al-Hamid's supporters and family.[11]

On 9 March 2013, he was found guilty of several charges and sentenced to ten years in prison followed by ten years of travel ban.[7]

International reaction[edit]

On 29 June, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies spoke on al-Qahtani's behalf at the 20th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, stating its "uttermost concern over the targeting of activists for their cooperation with international human rights protection mechanisms" and referring specifically to the charges against al-Qahtani.[13]

Amnesty International described the charges as "part of a series of recent trials aimed at silencing human rights activists" in Saudi Arabia.[3] Later, it described the sentence as an evidence of "Saudi Arabian authorities’ inability to deal with any opinion that contradicts their own."[14] Human Rights Watch described the sentence as being "outrageous."[15]

Points of view[edit]

Low-end jobs for Saudi women[edit]

In 2009, Al-Qatani opposed the opening of housemaid jobs to Saudi women, saying that low-end jobs should be performed by migrant workers. The statement was made in response to a report that 30 Saudi women recruited through an employment agency had taken on jobs as domestic workers. Al-Qahtani criticized the ministry of labor for forcing Saudis into low-end jobs, saying they should instead start from the top, since high-end jobs were readily available, and there were plenty of expatriates to fill the menial jobs. [3]

Women to Drive movement[edit]

On 17 June 2011, Al-Qatani tweeted, "My wife, Maha, and I have just come from a 45-minute drive, she was the driver through Riyadh streets," a reference to the Women2Drive movement, a campaign for Saudi women's right to drive that called for Saudi women to start driving starting 17 June 2011. [4]

Human rights[edit]

Al-Qahtani believes that all people, including those suspected of terrorist activities, have the right to a fair trial.[16]

Arab Spring[edit]

In April 2011, al-Qahtani stated in relation to the Saudi-led Peninsula Shield Force intervention in the Bahraini uprising:

Unfortunately, they are throwing their power, their authority and their leverage to maintain the status quo, and I don't think it's going to survive in the future. I tell you they have taken too many embarrassments during these revolutions. That's not the way you build your own foreign policy.[17]

In early 2011, al-Qahtani believed that "the only serious way to seek change is by slow and concentrated steps". He suggested that the families of political prisoners would be more motivated to carry out street protests, especially if women participated, compared to "liberals".[16] During the Arab Spring events of early 2011, al-Qahtani received telephone calls from political prisoners' families, prior to a 5 February 2011 protest in front of the Ministry of Interior in Riyadh[18] by 50 women. Al-Qahtani stated that "the small group spent the night in jail, but they got serious news coverage in the process."[16]

In June 2012, after being charged in court for his human rights activities,[3][6] al-Qahtani stated:

The Saudi regime would soon lose its grip, and things would spin out of control. I am still very optimistic about the future because the regime will continue to deteriorate. Political and socioeconomic problems will snowball out of control. Eventually, the regime will fail, and people too would soon realize its failure. I guess it's our destiny to face prison terms, and possibly the loss of our steady source of income. This price, however, is a small token for regaining our people's liberty and freedom.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) (An Establishing Declaration) – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – Monday, October 12, 2009". Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association. 12 October 2009. Archived from the original on 25 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-25. 
  2. ^ "Amnesty calls for case against Saudi human rights activists to be dropped". Al Arabiya. 7 September 2012. Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Saudi Arabia ramps up clampdown on human rights activists". Amnesty International. 18 June 2012. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Lippman, Thomas W. (28 June 2012). "Saudi Professor Faces Charges After Fighting for Free Speech". Al-Monitor. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  5. ^ الهيئة الإدارية . Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (in Arabic). Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Saudi Arabia: Prominent Human Rights Defender Risks 5 Years of Prison for cooperating with the UN". Alkarama. 29 June 2012. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  7. ^ a b "Saudi Arabia court jails activists Qahtani and Hamid". BBC World Service. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  8. ^ a b "Saudi hunger strike over detentions". Al Jazeera English. 6 November 2008. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  9. ^ "Suleyman Saleh Al-Reshoudi". 3 March 2011. Archived from the original on 30 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-30. 
  10. ^ a b "Defense Teams for jailed Saudi Activists Are observing and Calling for a Two-Day Hunger Strike To Show Solidarity with Detainees and To Support Their Human Rights". Arab Commission for Human Rights. 25 October 2008. Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  11. ^ a b c "Saudi campaigner Mohammad al-Qahtani goes on trial – 1 September 2012". BBC World Service. 1 September 2012. Archived from the original on 3 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-03. 
  12. ^ a b "Two prominent Saudi human rights activists on trial in Riyadh – Monday, 03 September 2012". Al Arabiya News. 3 September 2012. Archived from the original on 3 September 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-03. 
  13. ^ Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) (2 July 2012). "Escalating crackdown on rights defenders". IFEX. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  14. ^ "Saudi Arabia punishes two activists for voicing opinion". Amnesty International. 11 March 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  15. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Release Jailed Rights Activists". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  16. ^ a b c Giglio, Mike (1 May 2011). "Saudi's Surprise Renegades". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  17. ^ "Bahraini medical centres and schools 'raided'". Al Jazeera English. 26 April 2011. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  18. ^ Laessing, Ulf; Alsharif, Asma (5 February 2011). "Saudi women protest, web activists call for reform". Swiss Info/Thomson Reuters. Archived from the original on 16 February 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 

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