Saudi Arabia’s new crackdown on dissent

Marc Lynch writes: On March 11, Saudi lawyer Abd al-Aziz al-Hussan went to see his clients Mohammed Fahd al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamed, two of the kingdom’s most prominent human rights activists, in prison. He tweeted that he found them in handcuffs, and prison officials were unwilling to remove them. Saudi authorities denied that the defendants had been shackled, though other witnesses supported Hussan’s account.

The Saudi government didn’t appreciate Hussan drawing attention to his clients’ case. In less than 24 hours, the 32-year-old American-educated lawyer found himself the target of the same crackdown that had claimed his clients. He was summoned for interrogation over his tweets, targeted by pro-government media, and his license to practice law was challenged by the Ministry of Justice.

While Saudi activists have tried to rally to Hussan’s side, his case has received virtually no international attention. This is in rather stark contrast to the unusual and constructive attention paid to the struggles of Saudi human rights activists early this year, when Qahtani and Hamed were profiled by the Washington Post, CNN, and Foreign Policy (by me). Even that attention, however, has not been enough: On March 9, Qahtani was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Hamed to five years for their political activities. [Continue reading…]

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