Coalition to State Department: Press for Release of Jailed Saudi Activists

June 25, 2014

In an effort led by the Center for Inquiry (CFI), 10 religious and secularist human rights organizations and leaders wrote U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, to request that the State Department “take an active role in securing the immediate and unconditional release of two detained human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, Waleed Abu al-Khair and Raif Badawi.”

You can download our letter here.   

Badawi, 30, is one of the founders of the website Liberal Saudi Network, which promotes open discussion on social issues and religion. On May 7, 2014, a Saudi court sentenced him to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a one million-riyal fine. Badawi has already been in prison for more than two-and-a-half years.

Al-Khair, 35, is a human rights lawyer and founder of the organization Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested on April 15, 2014, and has been held in prison ever since. Until his arrest, he was representing Badawi. Al-Khair’s hearing is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, 2014. Under the new Saudi terrorism decrees, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

In our letter, we argue that “the arrest of al-Khair and brutal sentencing of Badawi provide obvious evidence that Saudi Arabia refuses to live up its promises to the international community.” While Saudi Arabia has refused to sign several key international treaties, it is still a member of the United Nations, the charter of which calls on states to promote and encourage “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” It is also a member of the UN Human Rights Council, which exists to monitor and protect fundamental human rights.

And, as we further argue: 

“Saudi Arabia is not simply a member of the international community – it is also a key ally and trading partner of the United States, which has enshrined in its Constitution the individual rights to freedom of religion, belief, and expression, and plays a leading role in promoting these universal rights throughout the world. It is it odds with American principles and diplomatic goals to continue to engage with Saudi Arabia while not making clear that the country is failing to respect the most basic of human rights.”

In addition to the Center for Inquiry, the letter was signed by the American Humanist Association, Institute for Gulf Affairs, Institute for Religion and Public Policy, Muslims for Progressive Values, Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America, and the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, as well as Sonja Eggerickx, President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Dr. John Eibner, CEO of Christian Solidarity International, and Scott Morgan, President of Red Eagle Enterprises. 

You can download our letter here.