Global Freedom of Expression

The Case of Mikhlif Al-Shammari

Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Non-verbal Expression
  • Date of Decision
    November 3, 2014
  • Outcome
    Imprisonment, Criminal Sanctions
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Saudi Arabia, Middle East and North Africa
  • Judicial Body
    Specialized Court/Tribunal
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests, Political Expression

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Blogger and human rights activist, Mikhlif Al-Shammari, was sentenced by a Specialized Criminal Court in Al-Khobar city to two years in prison as well as 200 lashes. He has been arrested several times in recent years for his work surrounding democratic reform and human rights within the Kingdom.


On November 3, 2014, Mikhlif Al-Shammari was sentenced by a Specialized Criminal Court in Al-Khobar city to two years in prison as well as 200 lashes. The court based its holding and sentence off of charges surrounding (1) Al-Shammari’s visit to the father of a Shia Muslim protester who was killed in the Eastern Province in 2013; (2) his tweets demonstrating his intention to pray in a shia mosque; and (3) his violation of a signed declaration by Al-Shammari to be a “good citizen” and “to refrain from talking to or writing in national and international media and on social media networks, and communicating with international organizations.”

Decision Overview

The Specialized Criminal Court in Al-Khobar city convicted Al-Shammari of four charges. First, the court found him guilty of organizing a dinner in March 2012 in which he invited guests to discuss reform within the Kingdom. Al-Shammari, however, noted that he had obtained a special permit to organize that specific meeting. Second, the court found him guilty of visiting Sheikh Abdulkarim Alhubail, a prominent shia reformist leader in Saudi Arabia. Third, the court found him guilty of meeting with a father whose son had been killed in the Al-Qatif demonstrations in 2013. Finally, the court found him guilty of stirring up public opinion by encouraging people to respect different religious sects in the Eastern Province. The court ultimately held that Al-Shammari’s behavior in these four instances violated an earlier court decision and declaration that he had signed to cease his reform activities.

This holding also reiterates an earlier decision of a Specialized Criminal Court of Appeal in Riyadh , July 2014, wherein the court sentenced Al-Shammari to (1) five-years in prison; (2) a ten-year travel ban; and (3) issued a ban on writing articles, accessing the Internet and appearing in the media to promulgate his reform and human right activities. The charges in the November 2014 case are in part based off of Al-Shammari’s violation on the July 2014 sentences.

Decision Direction

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Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

This case clearly contract expression because in several ways it demonstrates a criminalization of freedom of expression in terms association and political thought.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Saudi Arabia, Information Crimes Law of 2007, art. 6

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:

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