Publication date: 06/12/2019

ALQST has learned that detained human rights activist Waleed Abu al-Khair has been on hunger strike since 29 November 2019, in protest against his transfer to a high security unit and harsh ill-treatment by prison officials. ALQST condemns the continued ill-treatment of Waleed Abu al-Khair and other prisoners of conscience, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. 

On 26 November, Waleed Abu al-Khair was transferred to a high security unit in Dhahban Prison. Here, he was placed in solitary confinement and subjected to various other forms of ill-treatment, including prolonged exposure to the sun, having his books taken away, and having his bedding suddenly removed in the night. On 29 November, he undertook a hunger strike in protest against his ill-treatment. 

Moreover, other prisoners of conscience continue to be ill-treated and harassed in prison. On 7 November, human rights activist Abdulaziz al-Shubaily was transferred from Unaizah Prison to a high security unit at Buraydah Prison. Such acts are not isolated incidents but form part of a pattern of harassment to which the majority of prisoners of conscience face in Saudi prisons.  

Waleed is serving a 15-year prison term, having been tried under Saudi Arabia’s 2014 anti-terrorism law for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities as a human rights defender and founder of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. 

ALQST Director Yahya Assiri said, “not only was Waleed’s trial before the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) unfair, and his arrest and detention arbitrary, but he continues to face abuse in prison in the form of ill-treatment. This is a similar story for other prisoners of conscience- the Saudi authorities deliberately make life difficult for them and deny them their basic rights even behind bars”. 

ALQST condemns the continued ill-treatment of Waleed Abu al-Khair and other prisoners of conscience, and calls on the Saudi authorities to end its systematic harassment and ensure that prisoners are treated humanely and their rights are respected.  ALQST reiterates its call for the Saudi authorities to release Waleed Abu al-Khair immediately and unconditionally, along with all other prisoners of conscience detained for the peaceful expression of their opinions or for acting to promote human rights.

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