The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called Thursday for the Saudi government to release Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamed. USCIRF, an independent bipartisan US federal government commission, called the jail sentences against the activists a “shocking step in the wrong direction” and welcomed the State Department’s concern about their case:
“Along with other Commissioners, I had the honor during a recent USCIRF trip to Saudi Arabia to host a meeting with Mr. al-Qahtani, one of two founding members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), an independent human rights organization,” said Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, USCIRF’s Chair. “We had sought out Mr. al-Qahtani, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent human rights activists, for his assessment of the status of freedom of religion and conscience in the Kingdom. ACPRA has issued numerous reports on rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, submitted information to the U.N. Human Rights Council and other international human rights mechanisms, and has criticized Saudi ministries and officials for their alleged human rights violations.