Saudi Shia Cleric Al-Amer Remains in Jail

Today’s anticipated release of detained Saudi cleric Tawfiq al-Amer has not happened because he refused to sign a pledge to cease speaking publicly, his son said. The Shia cleric hails from al-Ahsa region in the country’s Eastern Province. He has called for political reform and constitutional monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

In August 2011, al-Amer was arrested on his way home from the mosque after leading communal prayers there during the holy month of Ramadan. The Saudi government is accusing al-Amer of ten charges, including “incitement of public opinion” and calling for political change by challenging the state and provoking citizens.

Lawyer Sadeq al-Jubran who represents al-Amer said on Twitter “the release of Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer today has been halted because he refused to sign a pledge to stop speaking in public especially Friday sermons.”

Al-Amer’s son Mohammed said he is proud of his father for doing this. “Sheikh Tawfiq has refused to sign the pledge but his morale is high,” said Mohammed over Skype from Arizona where he recently graduated with a degree in engineering. His sisters also expressed similar sentiments on Twitter. “The will power shall defeat the tyranny power,” Fatima al-Amer said.

The Shia cleric had been arrested twice previously in 2008 and 2009. Amnesty International said last May that it considers “Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer to be most likely a prisoner of conscience imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.” The rights group also expressed concern that “he continues to be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.”