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Saudi rights activist says undeterred by trial

Prominent Saudi activist Mohammed al-Qahtani pledges to continue activism to promote human rights in Saudi Arabia, a statement he made after appearing in court on charges of sowing sedition and rebelling against the authorities

AFP , Sunday 2 Sep 2012
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Prominent Saudi activist Mohammed al-Qahtani vowed on Sunday to keep campaigning for human rights as he faced a trial that could see him being jailed for up to five years if convicted.

"I will not abandon my activities even if I receive a death sentence," Qahtani told AFP a day after he appeared in court on charges of sowing sedition and rebelling against the authorities in the absolute monarchy.

Qahtani, a founder of the non-governmental Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) said the charges he faces could lead to a jail term of between two and a maximum of five years.

"I expect to get the harshest punishment. They have listed these charges against me to scare people," he said.

Qahtani said the court has adjourned the case which began in June, without setting a new date, requesting "further explanatory documents" in his defence.

The 46-year-old was charged with "sowing sedition" and "rebelling against authority," as well as of accusing the judiciary of "permitting torture" and of questioning the beliefs of members of the supreme council of Islamic scholars.

ACPRA says it has compiled a list of "hundreds of violations" committed against human rights defenders over the past two years.

Several other ACPRA members are also awaiting trial, including Abdullah al-Hamed and Abdel Karim al-Khodr, the association said, adding that the kingdom is currently holding some 30,000 political prisoners.

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