Saudi reformers may get verdicts next week: lawyer

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 25, 2011 8:28 AM
Saudi reformers may get verdicts next week: lawyer

By Amena Bakr

RIYADH (Reuters) - Some of 16 Saudi reform activists being tried on security and sedition charges may receive their verdicts next week after spending more than four years in detention, their lawyer said on Saturday.

Most of the lawyers, professors and activists in the group were detained in 2007 after they met in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah to discuss reform in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

"Some of the verdicts could come out on Tuesday or Wednesday," lawyer Bassim Alim told Reuters.

"There are basically two scenarios. The first is that they would be let out on the basis that they had already served enough time and the second is that they will get a few more years which will give time for the king to pardon them in due course," Alim said.

Among other offences, the defendants had been charged with attempting to seize power, incitement against the king, financing terrorism, electronic crimes, money laundering and trying to set up a political party in Saudi Arabia, where political groupings are banned.

A Justice Ministry spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

In May, Judge Saleh bin Ali al-Ojairy fell out with Alim, who is defending all but one of the 16 activists, and banned him from access to the court and direct contact with his clients.

"(The judge) denied me entry into the court to defend my clients, I am currently still their legal representative and preparing all documentation out of court for them to personally hand in to the judge," said Alim.

"I communicate with my clients ... through their family visits. The families convey their messages to me and I reply. It's been a very difficult situation," he said, adding that no other lawyer had agreed to defend the activists due to the sensitivity of the case.

Saudi Arabia, a major U.S. ally and the world's top oil exporter, is an absolute monarchy that tolerates no dissent.

Activists say thousands of people are held in Saudi prisons without charge or access to lawyers despite a law that limits detention without trial to six months.

"This case has not been objective, People already realize the travesty of the procedures and the charges," said Alim.

(Reporting by Amena Bakr, editing by Alistair Lyon)