Three Saudi lawyers were sentenced this week to fines of more than 1 million Saudi riyals ($266,666) in total and a complete media ban after they criticized the kingdom’s Ministry of Justice on Twitter. The lawyers were also ordered to issue a formal apology to Justice Minister Mohammed Al Isa.
In complaints filed last November with a Ministry of Culture and Information’s legal committee responsible for looking into violations published online, the Ministry of Justice accused the three lawyers of posting tweets that “damage the reputation of the justice apparatus” and retweeting cartoons and articles that mock judges.
The three lawyers targeted by the lawsuits are Abdulrahman Al Rumaih, Abdulrahman Al Sobaihi and Bander Alnogaithan, a graduate of Harvard Law School.
As soon as news spread online about the verdict, their colleagues took to Twitter to condemn it. Many of them changed their profile pictures to black to express their frustration. In a show of a solidarity, these colleagues said they will raise funds to pay the fines on behalf of the trio if the verdict is upheld.
“Unjust verdict against honest lawyers,” said Tarek Al Shami on Twitter. “They won’t pay one riyal from their pockets as other honest lawyers are behind them.”
حكما جائر ضد محامين شرفاء لن يدفعوا ريالا من اموالهم فالمحامين الشرفاء خلفهم وان اسكتت اقلامهم فكل اقلام المحامين الشرفاء اقلامهم
— المحامي طارق الشامي (@alshami_tarek) June 1, 2014
The legal committee said in a statement carried Tuesday night by the state news agency that it reiterates its “support to freedoms and not restricting them as long as they remain within acceptable limit,” but described the three lawyers’ criticism of the ministry as “improvised tweets which are extremely bad in vocabulary and content.”
Those who object to the verdict have the right to appeal, the statement said.
One of the three accused lawyers, who spoke to The Wall Street Journal on the condition of anonymity, said they plan to write to the king to intervene in the case, describing what the committee said in its statement as “lies and defamation.”
“We have no doubt that we will be granted justice” from the king, the lawyer said.
Saudi King Abdullah announced a major project in October 2007 to overhaul the legal system, including the allocation of $2 billion for training judges and building new courthouses.
Mr. Isa, the justice minister, gave a lecture in New York last Friday before the International Association of Lawyers where he praised the development of the judiciary under the reform program, adding that the “justice system upholds the most important and most current international measures.”
However, critics like these lawyers say the Ministry of Justice has failed to implement reforms, focusing on cosmetic changes instead of dealing with real issues plaguing the system like the long delays in resolving disputes due to the small number of judges who sometimes issue controversial sentences based on their own interpretation of Sharia.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service — if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.
(via WSJ Blogs)