Sunday, March 17, 2013

UPDATE: Where is Khaled?

Almost two years ago in the midst of the Arab Spring, I posted a video of a Saudi man named Khaled.  He had shown up for a planned protest on the streets of Riyadh - but he was the only one. Khaled spoke to a BBC News crew that was there waiting for anything to happen that day, amidst the muscle of an overwhelming police presence. CLICK HERE for my original post about what happened, along with the video of Khaled speaking.

Khaled Al-Johani disappeared shortly after he spoke on tape to the journalists. News reports labeled Khaled “the bravest man in Saudi Arabia.”  For almost one year he languished in a Saudi prison, deprived of access to legal representation, held without charges, and denied a speedy trial. In February 2012 in a court established to handle terrorism cases, he was finally charged with "support of demonstrations, presence at the location of a demonstration, and communications with the foreign media in a manner that harmed the reputation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

It appears as though Khaled was temporarily released from prison and was able to spend four months with his family – before he learned the verdict in his case and his fate: his sentence is eighteen months in prison.

Saudi human rights activist Abdullah al-Hamid, who himself has just been recently sentenced to a five year prison term for voicing his political opinions openly, tweeted: “The sentence on Khaled al-Johani to a year and a half in prison is an announcement to the whole world that the Saudi judiciary is a tool to suppress human rights. This is [the result of] secret trials.”

Sadly, Saudi Arabia continues its reputation as one of the worst abusers of human rights in the world.

Additional reading:

Susie's Big Adventure "The Bravest Man in Saudi Arabia"

Global Voices Online:  Lone Saudi protester sentenced to 18 months in prison

Khaled al-Johani (Wikipedia)

4 comments:

  1. I was just wondering what happened to him the other day. Thank you for the post. And inshallah he will get back to his family as soon as possible.

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    1. Hi Boxie - I had been wondering about him too. I wonder if the time he already spent in prison will be counted towards his sentence. If so, he won't have to serve much more time. I don't know if things are done that way here in Saudi Arabia though ... Somehow I doubt it.

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  2. Susie - I am thankful that you have the courage and interest to share information about day-to-day life in Saudi Arabia, as well as about matters of political interest/current events. Your blog is my primary source of information on life there, and I appreciate that you include as much primary-source information as possible (e.g. news articles, photos, etc) as well as some of your own observations and commentary. As a Saudi national, Khaled and others like him face such harsh punishments for sharing their opinions and thoughts about life in the kingdom - how have you and other foreign bloggers been treated as you share your opinions and thoughts? Hope you continue to keep up the good work and help the rest of the world learn more about the Saudi way of life . . .

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    1. Thank you, Krista - I find that I must exercise self-censorship quite a bit. My general rule of thumb is that the harder I am pounding on the keyboard as I am writing a post, the more I need to reread what I've written and reword, tone down, or take out. It's very difficult at times knowing what is acceptable or at least not offensive, especially coming from such an entirely different culture and mentality. For a long time, I felt that it wasn't my place to speak up about issues that bother me here. But now I feel that as a resident of this country, I should and can be vocal. A prominent Saudi blogger made me realize that when she told me that I am "helping Saudis see themselves through the other's eyes." She said I was "like a mirror in a fitting room, stark, well-lighted and honest - making us cringe and at the same time face the truth." I really liked the way she made me see myself.
      As far as how we foreign bloggers are treated, many people appreciate what I write - but I also get hate mail too. It doesn't bother me like it used to. Blogging has really toughened me up.

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