ALQST has information that the Saudi authorities have been arresting large numbers of foreign residents of various Arab nationalities, as well as Saudi nationals who employ or sponsor them under the kafala system. These arbitrary arrests are politically motivated and unlawful. The security services have also, mostly on political grounds, arrested pilgrims and other visitors to Saudi Arabia, some of whom have subsequently been released.
The Saudi authorities have been targeting people of certain nationalities for arrest, harassment and arbitrary expulsion: Yemenis accused of links with the Houthi movement; Palestinians and Egyptians accused of links with the Muslim Brotherhood; and Syrians and Lebanese accused of links with the Syrian regime. Among the detainees are a number of women who were arrested when they arrived in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage in 2018. Most of them were released after a number of months; having missed their chance of taking part in the Hajj, they were told they were going to be released because they had not committed any crime.
ALQST also received a press release this week (see below) from the Palestinian group Hamas, with news that the Saudi authorities had on 4 April this year arrested 81-year-old Hamas official Muhammed Saleh al-Khudari, a resident of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia for nearly 30 years, and for two decades the man who managed Hamas’s relations with the kingdom. They also arrested his son, Hani al-Khudari. After five months of fruitless diplomatic efforts to secure the two men’s release quietly, Hamas decided to go public.
ALQST has also learned that some Saudi nationals have been arrested for connections to the Arab detainees through sponsorship, employment or family ties. The arrests are still going on, interspersed with releases of detainees without any charges being brought. This shows that they are being targeted for political reasons, not for anything they might have done.
ALQST maintains that the Saudi authorities are repeatedly violating human rights by arbitrarily arresting innocent people without any justification, and that they are hoping to get away with this by everyone remaining silent. They threaten victims and their relatives if they speak out, and punish anyone expressing sympathy with them.
ALQST calls on those states, organisations and families who have citizens or members being held in Saudi jails to stand up and speak out against the violation of their rights, tell the world what has happened to them, and pressure the authorities to release them. If people remain silent the problem will get worse, and violations will continue.
ALQST also calls on human rights bodies, NGOs and the media to press the Saudi authorities to put a stop to this unlawful and politically motivated campaign of arrests, and immediately release all those who have been arrested arbitrarily.