SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 25, 2013

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Qassim University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Saudi Arabia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 25, 2013 a criminal court in Buraydah issued an order imposing a four-month detention on Dr. Abdulkareem Yousef al-Khoder, a professor of Law at Qassim University and a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA).

ACPRA is a human rights organization that aims to raise awareness of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and to assist the families of political prisoners.

Dr. al-Khoder has been on trial since January 2013, charged with inciting disorder, providing false information about Saudi Arabia to international organizations and media, and taking part in the founding of an unlicensed organization. The court ordered the detention on April 25, after Dr. al-Khoder refused to attend his court session in protest against the judge’s decision to block a group of 10 women from observing his trial. The court provided no reasons for the detention order or for denying the women access to the courtroom.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of a member of a higher education law faculty apparently for nonviolent, expressive activity which is both related to his professional expertise and protected by internationally recognized human rights standards.  State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with scholars’ expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Prosecution aimed at limiting such expressive activity undermines democratic society generally.

UPDATE: Dr. al-Khoder was convicted and reportedly received an eight-year sentence in June 2013.  His conviction and sentence were later overturned by the Saudi Court of Appeal, and his case was reportedly remanded to the Criminal Court, where a retrial was scheduled to take place in May 2014.  The Criminal Court reportedly held that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the case, and ordered the case transferred to a separate court — the Specialized Criminal Court. At the same time, the Criminal Court ordered Dr. al-Khoder released.  However, this order was reportedly not complied with, and as of October 2014, Dr. al-Khoder remained in prison.