Beirut, December 8, 2011 – The Gulf Centre for Human Rights calls on the Saudi authorities to immediately release five Human Rights defenders. The Centre also condemns the extrajudicial detention and constant harassment of human rights defenders and bloggers in the Kingdom. Four human rights defenders, Mukhlaf Al-Shamri, Fadeel Al- Manasef, Mohamed Salih Al-Bijadi, and Mubarak Bin Zaair, along with the blogger, Ali al-Dibaysi have been targeted and detained by the Saudi authorities. All of the detained come from areas that witnessed pro-reform protests, such as Al-Awamiya in Eastern Province and Barida. Four of the human rights defenders have been held without any official charges being declared against them and only one had stood trial so far on trumped up accusations of harming the country's image and possessing banned books.
Ali al-Dibaysi, a young blogger and human rights defender from Al-Awamiya, a town in Eastern Province that has witnessed anti-government protests, was detained in September 2011. He has been able to contact his family just once. In his writings, published in Rasid, a news website focusing on Eastern Province, he indirectly criticized the ruling authorities in the Kingdom. On November 21, 2011, he was transferred to Al-Dammam General Prison, where he remains to this day. No charges have been made against him and after two months in detention, he has still not been put on trial. He has also not given access to a lawyer.
Mohamed Salih Al-Bijadi, a human rights defender, was detained on March 21, 2011, following demonstrations in his hometown of Barida. Protesters in Barida demanded the release of nine prisoners who have been held for almost 16 years without trial, in connection with the 1996 explosion in Al-Khobar compound. Al-Bijadi was one of the participants in the demonstrations, a Saudi defender told the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. The General Investigator's office has searched his house, and confiscating his personal computer along with several of his books. He was arrested without a warrant. He is accused of belonging to an illegal organization, ownership of banned books, and harming country's image. He has spent almost 4 months in solitary confinement and was then transferred to be with other prisoners in an overcrowded cell, and has also not given access to medical care according to information obtained by the Centre.
Al-Bijadi is also one of the founding members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, a local Human Rights organization that aims to raise awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In Saudi Arabia, there is still no Law for associations. Most human rights organizations cannot register their work officially and being a member of unofficial human rights organization is illegal.
Al-Bijadi is widely respected in Saudi Arabia among human rights defenders due to his human rights work, several human rights defenders told GCHR. He has spoken up in support of the Arab revolutions and has criticized the crackdown against Bahraini peaceful protesters, a unique stance in the oil Kingdom. Al-Bijadi has been targeted and received many threats of imprisonment and physical harm to him and his family. He was imprisoned twice in 2009 as a result of his human rights work.
Mubarak Bin Zaair, a human rights defender, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Arabic at the Islamic University of Imam Muhammad bin Saud, was arrested in March 2011, in connection with his participation in a demonstration in front of the Ministry of the Interior in Riyadh. He is being held in Al-Malaz criminal prison without charges and proper medical care. He has prosthetic knees, feels severe pain and requires an operation, his friend informed GCHR. Bin Zaair has served as mediator between the families of detained Saudis citizens and the Ministry of Interior. According to local activists, there are at least 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia and most of them are being held without charge. Bin Zaair was detained without a warrant and authorities have not allowed him to contact his family or a lawyer, according to Bin Zaair's letter describing his ordeal sent to the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association. "During transportation, I was roughed up," Bin Zaair said in the letter. He was blindfolded, verbally abused, and his legs were tightened too. "They put me in solitary confinement, in a cell consisting basically of a small dirty bathroom smelling of sewage. I was not given a mattress and had to sleep on a bare ground. The cell itself symbolized the abuse of a human being, and a lack of respect for human dignity," Bin Zaair said in the letter. He was not provided with toilet supplies, additional clothing, and a mattress for six days. He was informed by the guards that the Criminal Investigation Division ordered them to subject Bin Zaair to this harsh treatment.
Fadeel al-Manasef, a human rights defender, who has been monitoring human rights violations in Eastern Province as an independent field researcher, was detained for the first time in May 2011 in connection with his participation in peaceful demonstrations that took place in Al-Awamiya. He was released on August 11, 2011. On October 2, 2011, he was rearrested and is currently being held in the Investigation Prison in Al-Dammam without official charges. He was arrested after he went to a police station as a human rights defender to protest the unlawful arrest of an elderly person. The elderly man had been arrested to put pressure on his son, who had participated in the Al-Awamiya protests, to give himself up to the police. Al-Manasef has trained people to monitor and document human rights violations and organized workshops to raise awareness regarding human rights in Saudi Arabia, several activists told GCHR.
Mukhlaf al-Shimri, a human rights defender, who has been jailed for the past 18 months without trial. He has been referred recently to the Saudi Criminal Court specializing in national security and terrorism cases. On November 25, 2011, Shimri's family released a statement via Facebook page calling for Al-Shimri's release and asking the Minister of Justice to refer his case back to the Ministry of Information and committees dealing with publication and media cases. According to the family, accusations against Shimri are related to his critical media appearances, as well as his human rights activism and six articles he has published online. In his articles, Al-Shimri has criticized hard-line religious views and public officials. The family said that Shimri expressed his views and beliefs on public matters and did not participate in any activity related to terrorism, adding that they "were shocked to hear that his case was referred to the court specializing in state security and terrorism." Al-Shimiri, is a well-known human rights defender, has been kept in detention since June 20, 2010 and has still not been put on trial.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights strongly believes that the continued detention of human rights defenders, Mukhlaf Al-Shamri, Fadeel Al- Manasef, Mohamed Salih Al-Bijadi, Mubarak Bin Zaair, and Ali al-Dibaysi is an attempt to prevent them from conducting their peaceful and legitimate activities in the defense of human rights and forms part of an ongoing pattern of intimidation, threats and attacks against human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is very concerned for the safety and well-being of the five human rights defenders while in detention and fears that they are victims of torture and ill-treatment.
For more information, please contact:
Bahrain: Nabeel Rajab (Arabic and English) +973-396-333-99
In Lebanon: Khalid Ibrahim (Arabic and English) +961-701-595-52
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is an independent centre and has been established and registered in Ireland. The Centre works to strengthen support for human rights defenders and independent journalists in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.