Saudi authorities have detained Samar Badawi, a human rights activist known for championing women's rights, according to local activists. Badawi’s former husband and brother are serving prison terms for their activism.
Amnesty International, one of the groups which reported Badawi’s detention on Tuesday, called it “the latest example of Saudi Arabia’s utter contempt for its human rights obligations and provides further damning proof of the authorities’ intent to suppress all signs of peaceful dissent.”
Badawi taken with her 2-year-old daughter to a police center in Jeddah, local activists told Amnesty. Authorities transferred Badawi to prison, and she is due to appear in court on Wednesday, according to the activists.
Philip Luther, director of Amnesty’s Middle East and Africa program, called for her immediate release.
Badawi’s former husband, Waleed Abulkhair, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Saudi court in July 2014. At the time, Badawi said he was convicted on a series of charges, including "undermining the regime and officials" as well as "inciting public opinion" and "undermining judicial authorities."
Her brother, Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes after being convicted of insulting Islam and breaking Saudi Arabia's technology laws with his liberal blog. He also fined $266,000. The flogging, which is meted out in installments, has been suspended since he received 50 lashes in January. The punishment sparked international outrage.
Samar Badawi’s detention comes days after Saudi Arabia’s execution of the Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others on one day. Al-Nimr was a central figure in protests by Saudi Arabia's Shia minority until his arrest in 2012, and his execution drew condemnation from rights activists and Shias across the Middle East, escalating regional tensions.
Ensaf Haidar, president of the Raif Badawi Foundation, confirmed Samar Badawi’s arrest, according to CNN. Haidar said Badawi is charged with running the Twitter account of her former spouse. A spokesman for the Saudi Interiro Ministry, Maj. Gen. Mansour Turki, denied that Badawi had been arrested in a text to the New York Times, saying she was being questioned at a police station.
Luther said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia “has once again demonstrated its utter disregard for human rights. Samar Badawi has been arrested purely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.”
Badawi, who has campaigned for her brother and former husband, received the United States’ 2012 International Women of Courage Award from first lady Michelle Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her work promoting women’s equality in Saudi Arabia.
“The detention of Samar Badawi shows once again Saudi Arabia’s determination to silence those with the courage to speak out for human rights and reform,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch on Tuesday. “King Salman should call a halt to this repression and end the authorities’ incessant harassment of peaceful pro-reform advocacy.”
Al Jazeera with wire services