Yemeni journalist in Saudi Arabia gets 15 years for apostasy
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Ali Aboluhom, a Yemeni journalist based in Saudi Arabia who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for tweets that, according to the Saudi authorities, constituted apostasy.
Aboluhom has been detained since 23 August and was sentenced on 26 October. Based in Saudi Arabia since 2015, he worked as executive director of the Alwadi TV channel and as a presenter at Yemen Times radio.
RSF has learned that Aboluhom was initially detained on the pretext that he owed work to an employer. After trying unsuccessfully to contact him, his wife was finally told that he was the subject of a criminal investigation. After ten days, she was allowed to visit him but only for very short visits. His initial interrogations were conducted without a lawyer being present.
According to the ten-page sentence, which RSF has seen, Aboluhom was convicted of having a (now suspended) Twitter account that he used to spread “ideas of apostasy, atheism and blasphemy.” The authorities identified him as the account’s owner through the linked email account.
“We call for Aboluhom's immediate release,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “His arrest and conviction show that use of the Internet and social media by journalists and bloggers as a space for debate and for exchanging information is still subject to draconian surveillance in Saudi Arabia.”
Detained in Saudi Arabia since 2012, the blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” because his online forum, Free Saudi Liberals, had become a platform for discussing liberal and reformist ideas. The journalist Turki Al-Jasser has been jailed since March 2018 after being identified as the owner of an anonymous Twitter account called "Kashkol" that was critical of the authorities and was one of the few places where Saudis expressed themselves freely.
Another Yemeni journalist, Marwan Al-Muraisy, has been jailed in Saudi Arabia since June 2018. No official charge has so far been brought against him.
Saudi Arabia is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.