Now Reading
LGBT+ rights blogger made to share a jail cell with prisoners who call him a ‘devil worshipper’

LGBT+ rights blogger made to share a jail cell with prisoners who call him a ‘devil worshipper’

  • His crime was to call for gay rights in a video on social media.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a Yemeni blogger to 10 months jail for supporting equal rights, including LGBT+ rights.

Mohamad al-Bokari’s health has gotten worse since the court passed the sentence. The authorities put him in a shared cell. And his cell mates called him a ‘devil worshiper’ who ‘deserves the death penalty’.

It’s a continuation of the human rights abuses Mohamad al-Bokari has faced at the hands of the Saudi Arabian authorities. Indeed a source claims officers also slapped, kicked and tortured him to try to prove he is gay.

‘Forced anal exam’

Blogger and human rights activist Mohamad al-Bokari, who comes from Yemen, posted a video on social media calling for equal rights, including for gay people.

In response, police arrested him on 8 April. Human Rights Watch says security officers subjected him to a forced anal exam.

These ‘anal probe tests’ are supposed to establish if someone has had anal sex. However, they have no scientific basis and are cruel and degrading. Indeed, they are officially a form of torture.

They also beat him and held him for six weeks before his trial in solitary confinement in al-Malaz prison in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital.

The cell was hot and humid, with no windows, no air-conditioning, and insufficient ventilation. The temperature in the city at that time was an average daily high of 39C to 42C, that’s 102F to 107F.

After that, they put him on trial, although he didn’t have access to a lawyer. The authorities charged him with violating public morality by promoting homosexuality online, and ‘imitating women’.

The Saudi court sentenced him to 10 months prison and a fine of 10,000 Saudi Riyals (US$2,700). Al-Bokari has 30 days to appeal.

Meanwhile his health has deteriorated and the authorities transferred him to hospital. 

Al-Bokari, suffers from a chronic heart condition, and the hospital gave him an electrocardiogram (ECG). But doctors discharged him without telling him the test results.

The doctors denied that he has a heart condition and denied him access to medication. But a source claims he is ‘on the verge of collapsing’.

‘Hollow claims’ of Saudi progress

Meanwhile al-Bokari faces a further punishment when he leaves jail.

He had fled Yemen in June 2019 after Yemeni armed groups threatened to kill him. But Saudi Arabia has said it will deport him after he finishes his sentence.

Rasha Younes, LGBT+ rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: 

‘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. Saudi Arabia should match rhetoric with reality and drop the case and the deportation against al-Bokari immediately.’

Yemen is currently enduring a civil war which has resulted in a famine and a cholera outbreak. Human rights experts say the situation is a ‘humanitarian disaster’ and even a ‘genocide’.