June 16, 2017
Every Friday morning, a small group of us, sometimes three, sometimes five, hold a vigil outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia. We’re the most genteel and well-behaved protestors anyone could want, yet the embassy always posts a guard behind the railings, watching and monitoring us.
As they must be watching and monitoring vigils across the world every Friday morning. Because we’re not the only ones outraged by a barbaric, medieval sentence on a man who merely used peaceful words.
Five years ago, on 17th June 2012 Raif Badawi was arrested by the Saudi Arabian authorities, for allegedly “insulting Islam through electronic channels”. Raif had taken to his keyboard and set up a liberal website. An action which would have gone completely unremarked in this country and many others.
It will also mark the birthday of Waleed Abu Al-Khair.
Waleed is also in prison in Saudi Arabia, a lawyer who represented Raif Badawi in court, and who happens to be Raif Badawi’s brother-in-law. A man who’s spent his life fighting the abuse of human rights in Saudi Arabia. It appears the kingdom took its revenge by convicting him on charges including ‘striving to overthrow the state and the authority of the King’; ‘criticising and insulting the judiciary’; ‘assembling international organisations against the Kingdom’; and ‘inciting public opinion’. After all Waleed is a man who’s won the Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize; been awarded the Swiss Freethinker Prize and been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This is the 4th year Waleed will be spending a birthday in prison.