July 28, 2020 / 1:00 PM / 16 days ago

Yemeni blogger jailed by Saudi court for supporting equal gay rights - group

LONDON (Reuters) - A Saudi court has sentenced a Yemeni blogger to 10 months in prison, a fine of 10,000 riyals ($2,600) and deportation for a social media post supporting equal rights for people in same sex relationships, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The group said Mohamad al-Bokari fled Yemen in June 2019 and was living as an undocumented migrant in Saudi Arabia when he was arrested on April 8 for a Twitter video that drew online condemnation from Saudis and calls for his arrest.

In the video, seen by Reuters, Bokari was asked by one of his Twitter followers for his view of same-sex relations, to which he replied, “Everyone has rights and should be able to practice them freely, including gay people.”

In a statement to Saudi-owned Al Arabiya confirming Bokari’s arrest, the spokesman for Riyadh’s police department said in April that the video contained “sexual references” which “violate public order and morals”.

Bokari was charged with violating public morality, “promoting homosexuality online” and “imitating women,” said HRW, adding it showed authorities discriminated against Bokari for his “perceived sexual orientation and gender expression.”

A Reuters request for comment to Saudi Arabia’s government media office went unanswered.

Bokari was sentenced on July 20 and has 30 days from that date to appeal.

Saudi Arabia has no codified legal system and no laws regarding sexual orientation or gender identity. Judges have convicted people for “immorality”, having sexual relations outside of marriage, and homosexual sex.

($1 = 3.7506 riyals)

Reporting by Raya Jalabi, Editing by William Maclean

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