Saudi court sentences Yemeni blogger to prison and deportation simply for saying gay people deserve equal rights

Saudi Arabia blogger gay rights

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a blogger to deportation and ten months in prison for a post supporting equal rights for gay people.

Blogger Mohamad al-Bokari is originally from Yemen, but fled in June 2019 to Saudi Arabia, where he was living as an undocumented migrant.

On April 8, Bokari was arrested because of a video he posted on Twitter, in which he mentioned gay rights.

Asked by one of his followers about his views on same-sex relationships, he said in the video: “Everyone has rights and should be able to practice them freely, including gay people.”

Homosexuality and gay sex are strictly illegal and punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. In April, 2019, five men were executed there after admitting they had had sex with other men.

For simply supporting rights for gay people, Bokari was accused by Saudi authorities of posting a video containing “sexual references” which “violate public order and morals”.

After his arrest, according to Human Rights Watch, he was subjected to a forced anal exam by police to determine whether he is gay – a practice which has no basis in science or medicine and is condemned internationally as a form of torture and sexual assault.

He also faced regular beatings from police in order to force him to “confess that he is gay”.

Although activists demanded his immediate release, on 20 July, Bokari was sentenced to 10 months in prison, a fine of 10,000 riyals (£2,061) and deportation on charges of violating public morality, “promoting homosexuality online” and “imitating women”.

The blogger has 30 days from the date of his sentencing to appeal.

Rasha Younes, an LGBT+ rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement: “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.”