Saudi Arabia jails Yemeni blogger and threatens deportation over support for LGBTQ+ rights

Saudi Arabia jails Yemeni blogger and threatens deportation over support for LGBTQ+ rights
The blogger is scheduled to be deported to Yemen, where he faces death threats.
2 min read
27 July, 2020
Bokari was charged with "promoting homosexuality" and "imitating women" [Getty]
Saudi Arabia has sentenced a Yemeni blogger to ten months in jail over his support for LGBTQ+ rights, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

Mohamed Al-Bokari was also issued with a 0,000 Saudi Riyals ($2,700) fine and will be deported after his release from prison to Yemen, where he could face threats to his life, the New York-based rights organisation said.

Bokari, 29, was arrested in April after he published a video calling for equal rights for all in the ultra-conservative kingdom, including gay people.

He was charged by authorities with "violating public morality by promoting homosexuality online" and "imitating women", a reference to his perceived sexual and gender identity.

The Yemeni blogger has lived as an undocumented migrant in the Saudi capital Riyadh since June 2019, when he fled death threats from armed groups in Yemen.

Rasha Younes, HRW's researcher for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, has called on Saudi authorities to release Bokari.

"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," Younes said in a statement

A source in contact with the blogger told HRW that Bokari has been subject to physical and verbal abuse, as well as the denial of medical treatment.
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Upon his arrest, Bokari was subjected to a forced anal exam, the source said. Such exams are a discredited practice used to "prove" homosexual conduct and are widely considered as torture.

Security officers beat him and verbally abused him while in pre-trial detention, the source added.

Bokari is currently held in a cell shared with inmates who have also verbally abused him, calling him a "devil worshipper" who "deserves the death penalty", the source said.

The Yemeni blogger, who has a chronic heart condition, is now "on the verge of collapsing" after his health deteriorated while in prison, according to the source.
Bokari was earlier transferred to a hospital and given an electrocardiogram (ECG) but was released without the test results and his since been denied medication, the source claimed.

Homosexual relations are punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict interpetration of Islamic Sharia law.

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