Sentence over, Saudi activist still in prison: HRW

DUBAI: A Saudi Arabian activist remains in prison despite completing his eight-year sentence for protesting the war in Gaza, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

The sentence against Khalid al-Umair expired on October 5, the New York-based watchdog said in a statement.

It added that he began a hunger strike almost a month ago “to protest his continued imprisonment”.

HRW said it has documented other cases of inmates who stayed months or years beyond the expiration of their sentences in Saudi Arabia.

“Often these extended arbitrary detentions were the product of bureaucratic mistakes,” it said.

“Extending detention following completion of a judicial sentence is arbitrary, and violates both Saudi law and international human rights standards.”

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has said the kingdom’s judicial system is independent and should be respected by other countries.

Public protests are banned in the kingdom.

Al-Umair was among a group arrested in January 2009 as they tried to start a protest against Israeli bombing of Gaza, HRW said, calling for his immediate release.

Rights groups say peaceful activists in Saudi Arabia are subject to lengthy prison sentences, travel bans and other sanctions.

The kingdom ranks 165 out of 180 countries and territories on the 2016 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.

Saudi Arabia was recently re-elected to a new three-year term on the United Nations Human Rights Council.-AFP