A Yemeni man living in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to prison, a fine, and deportation after he posted a video expressing support for LGBTQ+ rights onto Snapchat. Mohamad al-Bokari, who is living in Riyadh, received 10 months in prison, a fine of 10,000 Saudi Riyals, and deportation following months of alleged beatings and mistreatment by guards and fellow prisoners, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“Saudi Arabia’s public relations campaigns tout the kingdom’s ‘progress,’ but the court’s jail sentence for peaceful speech and then deportation to Yemen where the defendant’s life is at risk shows how hollow these claims are,” Rasha Younes, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights researcher at HRW said in a statement.
The 29-year-old Al-Bokari has been in jail since April and faced charges of violating public morality by promoting homosexuality online after he advocated for LGBTQ+ rights in a video posted to Snapchat. HRW alleges he was subjected to beatings by guards and verbal abuse by prisoners. Authorities also charged him with “imitating women” based on an alleged confession which Al-Bokari denies. HRW has listened to recorded audio of death threats he said forced him to leave his home country of Yemen. He has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
“Everyone has their own rights,” Al-Bokari said in quote from the video that appear in Middle East Eye. “Homosexuals have their rights. I hope you will leave homosexual people alone and not intervene in their personal affairs. Everyone is free,” he said in response to social media questions.”
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is routinely accused of violating basic human rights, and the recent court ruling appears to violate the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which states that all people have the right to “disseminate to others views, information, and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”