Personal information

  • Sex: Male
  • Marital status: Married
  • Date of birth: 1965
  • Area of activity: Academic , ACPRA Member , Human rights activist
  • Place of residence: Riyadh

Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani is an economics professor, human rights defender and co-founder of the now banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). He and two other Saudi human rights defenders – Abdullah al-Hamid and Waleed Abu al-Khair – jointly received the 2018 Right Livelihood Award for their “visionary and courageous efforts, guided by universal human rights principles, to reform the totalitarian political system in Saudi Arabia”. He has been overdue for release since October 2022.

Arrest and jail information

  • Prison: Al-Ha’ir Prison, Riyadh
  • Date of arrest: 9 March 2013
  • Manner of arrest: Arrested after trial at the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh

Trial information

  • Charges: Co-founding an unlicensed civil association; criticising state policy and the way the country’s economy was being run; turning public opinion against officials; describing Saudi Arabia as a police state
  • Court: Specialised Criminal Court (SCC)
  • Verdict: 10-year prison term and 10-year travel ban
  • Date of verdict: 9 March 2013


  • Arbitrary arrest/ detention ,
  • Denied access to healthcare


Right Livelihood Award, Sweden, 2018 (jointly with Abdullah al-Hamid and Waleed Abu al-Khair) and 2020 Dutch human rights award 'Geuzenpenning', Netherlands 2020 (jointly with Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammed al-Bajadi).


  • 24 October 2022 - Around the time of his expected release, Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani has been denied in family contact. The Saudi Arabian authorities have refused to give any information about him or his whereabouts, subjecting him to enforced disappearance. 
  • 26 May 2022 - He was beaten up by a man from the wing with mental health issues, before the other prisoners intervened to stop the attack and protect him.
  • 9 August 2021 - Al-Qahtani began another hunger strike in protest at not being transferred out of the mental patients’ ward, and at being mistreated and denied books. He suspended his strike on 12 August, when the prison administration promised to look into his demands, but resumed it on 15 August after authorities failed to act on its promises or rectify his situation.
  • Mid-2021 - A terrifying incident took place in which one of the mental patients in the wing where al-Qahtani is being held started a fire. The prison administration eventually managed to bring the fire under control and put it out, but it left conditions on the wing even worse. 
  • 7 - 14 April 2021 - He was denied contact with his family, after contracting Covid-19. 
  • 6 - 14 March 2021 - Al-Qahtani and more than 30 other prisoners of conscience in Al-Ha’ir staged a hunger strike in protest against harassment that included being held alongside psychiatric detainees and denied family contact and access to books and newspapers.
  • 19-30 December 2020 - He undertook a hunger strike in prison in protest at being denied family contact, access to books and essential medication. He ended the hunger strike after the authorities said they would meet his demands. 
  • March 2020 - Jointly with Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammed al-Bajadi, he recieved the 2020 Dutch human rights award, the Geuzenpenning, by Amnesty International.
  • April 2019 - He found a quantity of pharmaceutical pills as well as narcotics in the hot water urns on the wing. A number of prisoners suffered ill effects and had to be taken to hospital. Al-Qahtani was subsequently threatened by one of the inmates of the block, clearly putting his life at risk.
  • 17 December 2018 - Saudi Arabian authorities transferred him to solitary confinement.
  • November 2018 - He received the Right Livelihood Award, along with Abdullah al-Hamid and Waleed Abu al-Khair.  
  • September 2015 - The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued legal Opinion No. 38/2015 declaring his detention to be arbitrary. Since then, independent UN experts have repeatedly called for the immediate release of al-Qahtani and other detained ACPRA members.
  • March 2013 - He was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by a 10-year travel ban for “planting seeds of sedition,” “breaking allegiance with the ruler,” “defaming the judiciary” and “turning international organizations against the Kingdom.”      
  • 9 March 2013 - Arrested after trial at the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh.
  • June 2012 - He was arrested among a wave of arrests against Saudi human rights activists and faced eleven charges, all related to his activities in the field of human rights, including “establishing an unlicensed association”
  • 2009 - Al-Qahtani and ten other activists set up the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) to promote human rights in Saudi Arabia. It also called for political reforms, an elected parliament, and independent legal institutions that would protect citizens’ rights and enforce government accountability.

Other prisoners


Fahad Ramadan


Sarah al-Jar


Manal al-Gafiri



Mohammed al-Ghamdi



Mohammed al-Hajji