When activist Abdullah al-Hamed told the judge that he is ready for jail and some attendees at the courtroom reacted with applause and takbeer, the judge did not gavel the hearing to order. Instead, he ordered the attendees to leave the courtroom, allowing only the representatives of the media to stay.
The hearing which took place in the Saudi capital Riyadh was the latest episode in the trial al-Hamed and his fellow activist Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani, co-founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA).
The two of them have been on trial since June. The government is accusing them with a similar list of offenses, which includes seeking to disrupt security and inciting disorder, undermining national unity, breaking allegiance to the ruler, disobeying the ruler, and questioning the integrity of officials.
One of the charges against al-Hamed and al-Qahtani that received much ridicule by activists is that they have impeded the country’s development. Today, the public prosecutor explained that he did not accuse them of “impending development but rather of working to impede development” by calling for protests. The difference between these two things, he said, is “clear.” Al-Qahtani on Twitter described this as “the most important event” in today’s hearing.
Al-Hamed reportedly asked the judge if they are on trial for their opinions. “Is this an inquisition court?” he asked. The judge told the defendants they are not on trial for their opinions but for the means they have used to express these opinions. As he left the courtroom after the hearing was adjourned, al-Hamed said “the only way to solve the problem of extremism and violence is by allowing people to express themselves peacefully.”
The trial will continue next week. The upcoming hearing session is scheduled for December 8, 2012.