Judge Abdulaziz bin Dawood convicted prominent women's rights defender Loujain Alhathloul of terrorism charges, because she opposed the male guardianship system and peacefully advocated for women's rights to drive and be protected from domestic violence.
"Bin Dawood used his position on the highly politicized Specialized Criminal Court to stifle dissent," said Abdullah Alaoudh, Gulf Director at DAWN. "Convicting Alhathloul for daring to argue that the Saudi government should protect women from domestic violence is a mockery of justice."
On Decmber 28, 2020, bin Dawood, along with fellow judges Abdullah al-Luhaidan and Mufarreh al-Jundub, convicted Loujain Alhathloul under the Counter-Terrorism Law of "attempting to change the Basic Law of Governance," "trying to serve a foreign agenda" and "using the Internet to disturb the public order," according to the official Saudi news service Sapq. No evidence was presented, other than tweets and public appearances advocating for women to drive, her campaign against the male-guardianship system in the country, and her peaceful activism. The judges sentenced her to five years and eight months in prison and a five-year travel ban to start after her release.
Bin Dawood and the other two judges suspended half of Alhathloul's sentence (two years and ten months), and she was released on February 10, 2021. Upon release, she was placed on probation for three years and can be arrested and ordered to complete her sentence if she "commits any crime," according to her family and the official Saudi news Sapq. In Saudi Arabia, the penal code is mostly unwritten, and the codes like the Counter-Terrorism Law or the Anti-Cybercrime Law are designed to crimilize free speech. A vaguely worded accusation by the Saudi prosecution can constitute a "crime".
"The 'terrorism' verdict against this incredibly brave young woman should be the final nail in the coffin of any efforts to portray MBS as a reformer and his judges like bin Dawood as independent," Alaoudh said.
In 2013, bin Dawood completed his Master's degree from the Judicial High Institute, an institute that trains judges in Saudi Arabia. After his Master's degree, he was promoted to the position of "senior judge" in August 2014. A few years later he obtained his PhD from the same institution.
Before bin Dawood joined the Specialized Criminal Court, the Saudi authorities arrested at least six judges of the same court in October 2017 as part of a series of moves to restrict judicial independence. They appointed bin Dawood and others as replacements.
See the case: Loujain Alhathloul
DAWN contacted bin Dawood via the Saudi authorities on May 18, 2021 to request a response, but no response was received by the time of publication.
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Tyrants need enablers who will implement their oppressive practices, even if it means abusing their fellow citizens. These agents often mask their complicity in the guise of professionals exercising their duties in offices, courtrooms, police stations, and interrogation rooms.
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