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Saudi court postpones trial of prominent dissident rights activist

Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court has postponed a hearing in the case against prominent human rights defender Mohammed al-Otaibi, as a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against pro-democracy campaigners, Muslim preachers and intellectuals continues in the country.
The London-based rights group ALQST, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, said in a statement published on its official Twitter page on Wednesday that the next session is going to be on Sunday, March 13, 2020, Arabic-language Mirat al-Jazeera news website reported.
Otaibi’s fourth trial had initially been set for Monday February 3.
Among the accusations leveled by Saudi authorities against the imprisoned human rights campaigner are his trip to Qatar, his request for asylum in Norway, and his affiliation with the Saudi Arabian human rights non-governmental organization Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA).
Otaibi has been deprived during his previous trial sessions of the right to obtain the documents he needs to prepare his response to the charges brought against him.
On January 25, 2018, the so-called Specialized Criminal Court sentenced Otaibi to 14 years in prison and his colleague Abdulla Madhi al-Attawi to seven years in prison.
Otaibi left Saudi Arabia, and arrived in Qatar on March 30, 2017. The Saudi human rights activist was forcibly deported from Qatar to Saudi Arabia early on May 28, 2017 while on his way to Norway.
The Norwegian government had exceptionally agreed to provide him and his wife with two Norwegian travel documents and grant him refugee status as soon as he arrived, after he requested international support following his departure from Saudi Arabia to Qatar. He has been in prison since then.
Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners, in particular in oil-rich Eastern Province.
The province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.
Over the past years, Riyadh has redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.
In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.

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