The Court convicted Al-Bokari of the charges of “violating public morality” and “imitation of women”. The conviction raises growing concern on the country’s treatment to dissent and equal rights claims.
Al-Bokari is a Yemeni blogger who had fled his country to seek shelter in Saudi Arabia. He was living as an undocumented migrant of Saudi Arabia due to threats to his life by armed groups in Yemen. There have also been preconceptions about the sexual orientation of Al-Bokari. The authorities arrested him for posting a video on social media calling for equal rights. He was detained for up to 6 weeks pretrial. There have also been concerns regarding the treatment of Al-Bokari in the detainment prison. The Human Rights Watch has reported that though suffering from chronic heart disease, the procedures conducted were negligent.
Saudi Arabia has no codified laws relating to gender identity and operates on Sharia law. There are no express provisions for discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Same-sex marriage is prohibited, and intimacy between same-sex persons is criminalized. The convictions given on these aspects are usually based on ‘immorality’. The same is the reason in the present case.
The Court sentenced him to 10 months of prison time and added a fine of 10000 Saudi Riyals (US$ 2700). Al-Bokari has been given 30 days for his appeal. Failing to appeal, he would face deportation following the sentence completion.
There have been many reports and outcries by the international community on the events surrounding homosexuality in Saudi Arabia. The Human Rights Watch World Report stated its concerns on the cybercrime laws which are proving to be a medium to curb any dissent on the present situation in Saudi Arabia. Another aspect is the deportation of Al-Bokari. The customary international law prohibits the deportation of a person whose life is at risk, back to the country where the person faces such threats.
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