For the “crime” of telling Twitter followers he believes LGBTQ people have rights and “should be able to practice them freely,” a Yemeni blogger has been sentenced by a Saudi court to 10 months in prison, a fine equal to $2,700 and eventual deportation.
Human Rights Watch reports that Mohamad al-Bokari, left Yemen in June 2019 after receiving death threats. He’d been living in Saudi Arabia as an undocumented migrant when he was arrested on April 8.
The 29-year-old was asked on Twitter for his views on same-sex relations and in a video, he answered, “Everyone has rights and should be able to practice them freely, including gay people.”
A spokesman for Riyadh’s police department issued a statement saying the video contained “sexual references” that “violate public order and morals.” He was charged with violating public morality by promoting homosexuality online, and “imitating women.”
Prior to his trial, al-Bokari was held in solitary confinement in a cell with no windows, air conditioning or proper ventilation. He was provided no legal counsel for his trial.
After his sentencing, he was placed in a cell with other prisoners who harassed and verbally abused him saying he “deserves the death penalty.”
Human Rights Watch says his health has declined since the trial as he suffers from a chronic heart condition. Tests were administered but he was discharged without learning the results. Doctors reportedly denied he has any heart condition and have refused him any medication.
Bokari was sentenced on July 20 and has 30 days to appeal.
While Saudi Arabia has no laws on the books regarding sexual orientation or gender identity, judges often reference uncodified Islamic law to punish people accused of having sexual relations outside marriage, including adultery, extramarital and homosexual sex, or other “immoral” acts.
It has been ranked as one of the ‘most dangerous’ countries in the world for LGBTQ people.