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Waleed Abulkhair: Imprisoned!

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Remember the jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi? His lawyer is in jail now as well.

He was arrested on 15 April in Saudi Arabia without an explanation, put in prison, and is held in solitary confinement.

Raif Badawi is in jail because he expressed his opinion peacefully and created a liberal website. His lawyer Waleed Abulkhair, on the other hand, is in jail for his defense of human rights and freedom of expression.

One is expressing an opinion and the other is defending this right to expression and both are in prison! Welcome to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Abulkhair is not any lawyer.

He is a distinguished human rights defender and the head of the "Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia" (MHRSA) organization.

Like the kidnapped Syrian human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, he belongs to a fine calibre of human rights activists in the Arab MENA region. They share a strong belief in the necessity of political reform and respect for human rights and they are willing to pay the price for their belief, risking their lives and safety in the process.

Abulkhair has been harassed, threatened and intimidated. Yet he would not budge and refused to renege on his work. He told Amnesty International: "I am pleased with what I did, and until now, despite all the harassment, I do not regret my choices. I am still on the right path. If you have a goal to live for, things become easier. My goals are justice, rights, freedom of expression and to be able to stand up and say that the regime is unfair".

The nature of the case brought against him in the court testifies to how unfair the Saudi political system is. It includes among others the following accusations: "disobeying the ruler," "disrespecting the authorities," "offending the judiciary," "inciting international organizations against the Kingdom" and "founding an unlicensed organization."

One has the impression that the Kingdom is living in an oblivion bubble, not aware that in this century, citizens do not owe their 'ruler' 'obedience.' Citizens have rights and responsibilities and they expect a political system that brings in good governance, guarantees their civil rights and respects their fundamental human rights.

"Nobody should be jailed for peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression", Amnesty International correctly said in its statement about Abulkhair case.

His wife, Samar Badawi, an activist, who participated in the Saudi women's driving campaign, could not have agreed more. She told me that her husband and other activists are paying the painful price for their dreams of an ideal present and a better future: "But that is the price for a free and just society. Someone has to pay the price."

Abulkhair is held incommunicado, deprived from sleeping and is feared to be tortured. He was snatched away from his wife, who is expecting their first child.

That is certainly a heavy price to pay for this dream.