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SAUDI ARABIA - 27 Jul 2021

Saudi Arabia: Sudanese media personality jailed for critical tweets

Ahmad Ali Abdelkader, 31. © Private
Ahmad Ali Abdelkader, 31. © Private

A Saudi court sentenced a Sudanese media personality and journalist to four years in prison on June 8, 2021, for “insulting the state’s institutions and symbols” and “negatively speaking about the kingdom’s policies” among other vague charges, Human Rights Watch said today.

The sentence against Ahmad Ali Abdelkader, 31, is related to tweets and media interviews he shared to Twitter in which he discussed and expressed support for Sudan’s 2018-19 revolution and criticized Saudi actions in Sudan and Yemen.

“Jailing a media personality on bogus charges speaks more negatively about Saudi Arabia’s policies than anything Ahmad Ali Abdelkader ever posted,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This and other similar prosecutions demonstrate just how determined Saudi authorities are to stamp out even the most minor criticism or questioning on social media and deter all dissent under threat of long prison sentences.”

Saudi authorities arrested Abdelkader when he arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on April 19 and detained him first in a police station in Jeddah for 20 days and then transferred him to al-Shumaisi detention center near Mecca. He has been denied access to a lawyer, including legal representation at his trial.

Abdelkader lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for five years, between 2015 and December 2020, first as a media coordinator for the Asian Football Federation and then for a Saudi supermarket chain’s marketing and communications department. In December, he left the country with a final exit visa, required to leave Saudi Arabia permanently. In April, he traveled back to Saudi Arabia on a new work visa and was arrested upon entry.