Amnesty International has received credible reports that Saudi Arabian prison authorities arbitrarily placed human rights defender and prisoner of conscience Waleed Abu al-Khair in solitary confinement and under tightened security. Waleed was placed in solitary confinement in Dhahban Prison near Jeddah on November 26 and for the past week, has been held incommunicado, put through torture and other ill-treatment. He has been on hunger strike since November 29 in protest against his ill-treatment. Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said:
“The fact that Waleed Abu al-Khair is in prison to begin with, let alone serving a 15-year prison sentence, is outrageous. He was imprisoned under bogus terrorism-related charges simply for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and defending human rights. He is one amongst scores of Saudi men and women being punished for standing up for their fellow citizens’ rights.
“Saudi Arabia just recently assumed the Presidency of the G20, and as it starts paving the way for it, it would serve it well to start matching words to action. It cannot claim to be committed to reforms to the outside world, when inside the Kingdom, it continues to brazenly treat its citizens this way.
“We call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to ensure that Waleed Abu al-Khair is protected from torture or other ill-treatment. They must allow him to contact his lawyer and family and provide him with access to medical care he may require without delay We continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Waleed Abu al-Khair and all other prisoners of conscience currently behind bars in Saudi prisons.”
Waleed Abu al-Khair is a lawyer and human rights defender who has defended numerous victims of human rights violations, as well as other human rights defenders. He was the lawyer of Raif Badawi, a well-known Saudi Arabian blogger who was sentenced in July 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. Waleed Abu al-Khair was sentenced in 2014 to 15 years in prison, followed by a 15-year travel ban and a fine of approximately US $53,000 on charges which include “disobeying the ruler and seeking to remove his legitimacy,” “insulting the judiciary and questioning the integrity of judges,” “setting up an unlicensed organization,” “harming the reputation of the state by communicating with international organizations” and “preparing, storing and sending information that harms public order.”