18 June 2010
Saudi Arabia must release or charge activist critical of the authorities

Saudi Arabian human rights defender and Shi’a Muslim rights activist Munir Baqir al-Jessas has been detained since November 2009, possibly for his criticism of the authorities' treatment of the Shi’a community in Saudi Arabia. More than seven months later no charges have been brought against him and he remains detained without trial.

Munir al-Jessas is reported to have been arrested for writing articles that he published online advocating greater respect for human rights in Saudi Arabia, particularly the rights of the minority Shi’a community.

He was arrested on the morning of 8 November 2009 at his workplace in Dammam, a city in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, and a few hours later security police searched his home, confiscated two laptop computers,  a digital camera, and a hard disc.

A week after the arrest of Munir al-Jessas, his sister, Bayan  al-Jassas,is reported to have been summoned to the offices of  the General Investigation (al-Mabahith al-‘Ama) for questioning after she helped publish an article criticizing the government’s treatment of the Shi’a community in Saudi Arabia.

She is said to have been questioned for six hours  and permitted to leave the office of al-Mabahith al-‘Ama  only after she agreed to sign a declaration pledging to cease writing about or publicizing the issue.

Munir al-Jessas is currently held at the prison run by al-Mabahith al-‘Ama in Dammam. He is reported to have been held in solitary confinement for the first four months during which his wife was permitted to visit him only rarely, but he is now no longer in solitary confinement and his family is able to visit him regularly.

Amnesty International is concerned that Munir al-Jessas may be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and for his promotion of human rights. If so, he should be released immediately and unconditionally.

Otherwise, the Saudi Arabian authorities should ensure that he is brought to trial promptly and fairly on recognizable criminal charges and without the possibility of the death penalty.

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