Since August 2012, Al-Ghazzawi has been detained at a Mecca Prison in Saudi Arabia after returning from Egypt where he set up home for many years. His occupation has varied over time and includes being a media consultant, a prominent scholar, a journalist but most importantly, the proprietor of the Al-Fajr Media Group as well as the creator and presenter of the Fadfadah (‘venting’) awareness campaign. The aim of the campaign, in form of a TV series, was to politically educate Saudi citizens by informing them of their human rights. The show received much popularitybut it was this TV series that began trouble for Al-Ghazzawi.
The Minister of Information, Dr. Abdul-Aziz Khoja urged Ghazzawi to stop his campaign and return to the Kingdom with full immunity from prosecution. This immunity was confirmed by Prince Mohammad bin Naif, the Deputy Crown Prince and then Minister of Interior. When Al-Ghazzawi returned to the Kingdom in November 2011, he was greeted by the Prince’s representatives at the airport but a week later, Al-Ghazzawi realised he was under house-arrest and was prevented from leaving the capital. Two months later, he was interrogated for two weeks by the General Prosecutor and then in August 2012, Al-Ghazzawi was arrested after Friday prayers in a harsh and brutal manner.
Since then, Al-Ghazzawi has been charged with numerous crimes including:
- Harming the reputation of the Kingdom
- Producing materials that impinges on public order and moral
- Inciting sedition and harming the Kingdoms reputation and standing
- Accusing the government of corruption
- Claiming the Kingdom adopts a policy of slavery and
- Receiving US$1.8 million from Libya’s now ousted leader, Colonel Muammar Ghadafi, referred to as a ‘hostile power’.
Al-Ghazzawi released a statement soon after his sentencing was issued in February 2014 :
“I am proud of all allegations made by the authorities and consider each one of them as a compliment. I am proud to expose the corruption and reveal the ugly face of the regime. It is an honour to expose religious extremism. Defending the rights of the Saudi citizens as well as the expatriates is a noble act.”
Since Al-Ghazzawi’s detention, he has suffered a series of negative consequences that have impinged on his human rights. These include humiliation and intimidation, the lack of allowance of regular visits from his family, a lack of proper healthy catering and the lack of proper health case. This is on top of the violations committed against him by the breach of the Royal Pardon, immunity and asylum granted by Prince Mohammad bin Naif, a harsh and unjustified prison sentence of 12 years, a 20 year travel ban upon release and a permanent ban on appearing in media outlets, all which was issued at an unfair trial, where his lawyers were not allowed access.
We at ALQST, urge the Saudi Arabia authorities to respect human rights and to stop violating the human rights of Wajdi Al-Ghazzawi. Al-Ghazzawi’s sentence was an attempt to prevent freedom of expression, a fundamental human right. We call for an increase of pressure on the Saudi authorities for the immediate release of Wajdi Al-Ghazzawi, and to drop all charges against him.