Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a Sudanese journalist to 4 years in prison for criticism against its ruling system in his twitter account. Based on a report by Human Rights Watch, the announcement of Ahmad Ali Abdelkader’s sentence was two months ago.
The Sudanese journalist worked in Saudi Arabia for five consecutive years starting in 2015. Abdelkader worked as media assistant for the Asian Football Federation and subsequently in sales promotion for a Saudi retail system.
Abdelkader left Saudi Arabia late in 2020 on a last exit visa, then returned in four months later on a fresh work visa. Saudi authorities detained him in his arrival at King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah. The last twitter activity he had was a day before his arrival in Jeddah in April 18.
The Sudanese journalist remained in Jeddah police headquarters for more than 20 days. he was then transported to a detention center around the religious city of Mecca. According to a person with firsthand information about the matter, his court process included two short sessions. Abdelkader had no access to an attorney and the opportunity to defend himself in these sessions.
The Court Ruling
A verdict by Jeddah court cited 9 tweets and two interviews with foreign media the filing. The Sudanese journalist stressed in a tweet that Sudan will not normalize relationship with Tel Aviv if Riyadh does not do so. He justified his prediction on the claim that Khartoum can’t play outside Riyadh’s field. The tweet dates back to 11 months ago.
He also lambasted Riyadh’s covert dominance over Sudan’s politics in another tweet. Abdelkader criticized Sudan’s military establishment for basing its policies “from Riyadh and not from Khartoum” in the tweet. The Sudanese journalist posted the tweet 16 months ago referring to the mortal policies of Sudan concerning Covid-19.
A third tweet accused the Saudi monarchy of providing financial assistance for the ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. He lambasted Saudi officials for being a “Zionist mouthpiece” referring to Riyadh’s bowing approach before Israeli policies. The posted the tweet in 2018 indicating Saudi follow-up of the case since years ago.
The Saudi court went further to say that Abdelkader was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He based his claim on the Sudanese journalists’ correspondence with Egyptian dissident writer Moataz Matar in twitter. The judges further noticed that Abdelkader hat Matar’s number in his cellphone.
Besides the tweets, the court verdict referenced to two media interviews with foreign channels. Abdelkader addressed the Sudanese uprising in separate talks with El-Sharq, an Egyptian opposition channel and N1 TV channel in Bosnia.
The Saudi court also noted Sudanese Journalist’s correspondence with international human right organizations through email. The ruling didn’t clarify the criminality of the correspondence sufficing to his requests for subscription and membership in these groups.
The Sudanese journalist was found guilty of tweeting contents that were “insulting to the state’s institutions and symbols.” Lambasting Saudi intervention in Yemen and making negative comments about Saudi-Sudan relationship was also among his convictions. The court also found him guilty for “appearing on social platforms loyal to organizations hostile to the kingdom.”
Crackdown on dissidents and critics for tweeting and criticism of the policies is not unprecedented in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh’s judicial system makes no reference to the criminality of the conducts.
The court also ordered the convict to deactivate accounts in Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. It also seized the cellphone basing the ruling on the Saudi anti-cybercrime law.
While The Saudi repressive force against dissidents dates back to decades ago, the monarchy intensified the crackdown since months ago. The case of the Sudanese journalist, along with Abdullah Jelan and Lina Alsharif, two other critics who have disappeared since May 2021, indicates Saudi Arabia’s intent to silence all third-party voices inside the country.