Five experts at the United Nations Human Rights Council have called upon Saudi Arabia to release dozens of human rights activists detained in Riyadh since September, Al Khaleej Online has reported. The five condemned a "worrying pattern of widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests and detention" in the Kingdom.
"More than 60 clerics, writers, journalists, academics and prominent activists have been imprisoned," the experts said on Tuesday. "We are witnessing the persecution of human rights defenders for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association and belief, as well as in retaliation for their work."
Salman Al-Awda, a prominent preacher, as well as Abdullah Al-Maliki and Issa Bin Hamid Al-Hamid of the banned Society for Civil and Political Rights were mentioned in the UN call for the detainees' release. The UN experts have a mandate to investigate human rights abuses such as arbitrary detention and the denial of freedom of expression and freedom of religious belief.
Saudi Arabia has been a member of the Human Rights Council since 2016, despite a long record of imprisoning its citizens without trial.
Late last year, the Saudi authorities arrested over 200 individuals based on corruption charges. The government maintained that at least $100 billion had been siphoned-off as a result of corrupt practices in the Kingdom.