Metro Weekly

Saudi Arabian court sentences Yemeni blogger to prison and deportation for supporting LGBTQ rights

29-year-old was prosecuted for "violating public morality" by posting a video to SnapChat urging others to respect LGBTQ people

saudia arabia, yemen, gay, blogger, lgbtq

Yemeni blogger Mohamed al-Bokari – Photo: Facebook.

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a Yemeni national prison and deportation for an online video expressing support for LGBTQ rights.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch reported that on July 20, Yemeni blogger Mahomaed al-Bokari was sentenced to 10 months in prison and eventual deportation back to Yemen for “violating public morality by promoting homosexuality online.”

He has also been charged with “imitating women,” with prosecutors claiming he had undergone gender confirmation surgery to become a woman — which al-Bokari has denied.

He will be fined 10,000 Saudi riyals, or the equivalent of $2,700, for his alleged crimes.

“These charges show that the court decision is based on discriminatory accusations against al-Bokari based on his perceived sexual orientation and gender expression,” Human Rights Watch said in a news release. Al-Bokari, 29, has 30 days to appeal the verdict.

Saudi Arabia often brings charges against people who advocate for LGBTQ rights by using cybercrime laws to prosecute content that authorities find objectionable. Same-sex relations are illegal and punishable by death in the country.

Last year, CNN reported that five men were executed in Saudi Arabia for allegedly admitting to having se with other men, but human rights watchers believe they were beaten into giving false confessions.

See also: Instagram influencer apologizes for sparking campaign to out gay men in Morocco

Al-Bokari was arrested in April after posting videos to Snapchat in which he urged others to respect the personal freedom of gay people, according to Middle East Eye.

“Everyone has their own rights,” he said. “Homosexuals have their rights. I hope you will leave homosexual people alone and not intervene in their personal affairs. Everyone is free.”

He previously fled Yemen in June 2019 after being threatened by local militia groups, and has since been living in Saudi Arabia as an undocumented migrant. His eventual deportation back to Yemen is all but certain to endanger his life.

“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, an LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

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

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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