Saudi authorities Thursday temporarily released Saudi Americans Salah al-Haider and Bader al-Ibrahim after 673 days of detention on terrorism-related charges pending trial in Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC).?Salah al-Haider is the son of Aziza al-Yousef, a leading women’s rights activist who was arrested earlier for campaigning for the women’s right to drive and criticizing the kingdom’s male guardianship system. Bader al-Ibrahim is a doctor and author of a book about Shi’ite Muslim politics.
The two dual nationals were arrested in April 2019 for merely supporting women’s rights and other reforms in the conservative kingdom on social media. They were charged with “terrorism” related crimes, although they were not amongst the earlier arrested activists.
Their upcoming trial is set for March 8, 2021 in Saudi Arabia’s SCC, a judicial body looking into terrorism cases, where they will face terrorism charges. No official comments have been issued on behalf of the Saudi authorities on the pair’s detention and provisional release.
The Freedom Initiative’s Saudi Desk Officer Bethany al-Haidari noted:
“This is welcomed progress, even though it is long overdue. Dr. Bader al-Ibrahim and Salahal-Haidar should have never been?jailed in the first place and their release should certainly not be on a ‘temporary’ basis. They have been detained, separated?from loved ones, and tried as terrorists for simply expressing their views.? Peaceful dissent is not terrorism.”
The Saudi authorities have been accused?by campaigners of using the SCC to oppress critical voices under the cover of fighting “terrorism”. For example, the SCC sentenced the women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul to five years and eight months imprisonment on December 28, 2020 for terrorism and national security offences. Al-Hathloul was accused?for seeking to change the Saudi political system and harming national security.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has already been facing intense criticism for its mass crackdowns on human rights activist rights, especially after the murder?of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate in 2018.