Agence France-Presse

Waleed Abu al-Khair, Saudi rights lawyer, banned from travelling to US

Saudi human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair is married to political activist Samar Badawi, shown here receiving an International Women of Courage Award awarded by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) as first lady Michelle Obama looks on during a ceremony at the State Department March 8, 2012 in Washington, DC.


Alex Wong

A prominent Saudi Arabian human rights activist and lawyer today said he will appeal a travel ban imposed on him by Saudi authorities on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Waleed Abu al-Khair said he will appeal after being informed March 21 that he would not be allowed out of the country due to "security concerns," said Reuters. He was set to fly to New York for the start of a democracy program sponsored by the US State Department at Syracuse University, according to a statement issued by Amnesty International on Tuesday on Al-Khair's behalf.

Al-Khair is married to Samar Badawi, a women's rights activist awarded the International Women of Courage Award by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama earlier this month, and has himself filed causes against the government in support of women, according to Amnesty International.  

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"I believe that it is due to my wife's and my activities in human rights issues that they imposed the travel ban on me," Al-Khair told Reuters today. "I don't want favors from the government, just my rights. I will appeal against this travel ban."

Amnesty International denounced the move by Saudi authorities as "completely arbitrary" and "unjustified."

The conservative Muslim kingdom, which has a poor rights record, is believed to be even more closely monitoring activists due to the region's Arab Spring unrest. 

Saudi human rights lawyer Ahmad al-Rashid said the ban on Al-Khair is meant to sent a broader message to the country's embattled rights community.

"Abu al-Khair is well known and this is a kind of harassment in order to stop him from making remarks that are not favorable to the authorities," he told Reuters

An interior ministry official, meanwhile, told Reuters the ban is related to Al-Khair's involvement in an ongoing lawsuit there. 

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