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Saudi Arabia: Two months imprisonment and 60 lashes for citizen Bu Saleh for Practicing congregational prayers from his home

Zuhair Hussein Bu Saleh

لقراءته بالعربية اضغط هنا

As part of Saudi Arabia’s continuous use of religious discriminatory policies, the government detained citizen Zuhair Hussein Bu Saleh on 2 July 2018, in order to implement a prior sentence of imprisonment and lashes issued against him for practicing his right to worship.

The court issued a sentence of two months imprisonment and sixty lashes against Bu Saleh in July 2015, on charges of practicing congregational prayers at his house. Bu Saleh was compelled to perform the prayer at his home because there were no mosques for Shia muslims in the Al Khobar governorate, eastern Saudi Arabia.

In May 2015, the Saudi government closed the prayer hall supervised by Bu Saleh, and arrested him on charges of ‘calling for unauthorized gatherings’ in reference to the gathering for prayers. Moreover, the Saudi government forbids the Twelver Shias and the Ismailis from building mosques outside their historical cities, and refuses to give permission for building mosques in Al Khobar governorate and its surrounding neighbourhoods; and does not give permits easily to build mosques in the cities and villages even if they form a majority of the population. Local sources report that the forbidding the Shias from building mosques outside their historical cities is a political decision made by the Crown Prince and the former Interior Minister Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz. A decision which remains in force.

Furthermore, ESOHR affirms that the government’s insistence on implementing the sentence , against Zuheir Bu Saleh does not meet align with recent media reports of interfaith initiative, such as that of Saudi signing an agreement with the Vatican to build churches for christians with the aim of “calling for the important role of religions and cultures in rejecting violence, extremism and terrorism, also its role in achieving security and stability in the world”.

In addition, Abu Salehs detention highlights the radical religious approach toward the religious minorities in the country, as it prohibits their prayer halls and mosques. Bu Saleh’s detention bares similarities to other religiously motivated detentions against a number of citizens, including in 2009 with the arrest of a worshiper Al Haj Abullah AlMhanna, at Al Jisr quarter prayer hall in Al Khobar, who was detained for 37 days. Likewise, Bu Saleh’s arrest comes amidst the Saudi government negative response toward ongoing demands of the resident Shia muslim in Al Khobar governorate for more than 20 years, such as providing authorized places for prayers.

With regards to Shia muslims practicing their right to worship and the freedom of religion, and punishing those who dare to do so; the capital punishment sentence against Sheikh Mohammad Atia and Abbas Alhassan, who were convicted on the basis of a series of charges, including ‘spreading Shiasm’ in Jeddah city where they live. Furthermore, Sheikh Bader Al Taleb is behind the bars after being convicted with a series of charges, such as planning to build an Islamic center in the holy city of Mecca.

These practices violate several international laws which are the basis for the criteria used by the Special Rapporteur of freedom of religion and belief, as it confirms that the definition of the right to worship extends to the right to build places of worship and protect them.

ESOHR stresses on that any real reform in Saudi Arabia cannot be applied without granting citizens all their rights including. the right to belief and worship, as well as the releasing all the detainees who were detained for practicing their religious rights.

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