The Saudi authorities have imposed a travel ban on 17 members of prominent cleric Salman Al-Ouda's immediate family, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported yesterday.
The rights organisation quoted one of Al-Ouda's family members as saying that he had discovered that he was banned from travel while attempting to leave the country. He added that the immigration officer told him that the Royal Court itself had imposed the travel bans for "unspecified reasons".
Al-Ouda was among the first of dozens of dissidents, writers and clerics who were detained in mid-September in a state-led crackdown against those it described as "acting for the benefit of foreign parties against the security of the Kingdom and its interests".
Since his arrest, Al-Ouda has not been questioned or charged, however he has been held in solitary confinement without contact to the outside world. He has only been allowed one 13-minute call to his family in October.
Al-Ouda's family believe he is being held because he did not comply with state request to tweet support for Saudi Arabia's boycott of neighbouring Qatar, instead he wrote: "May God harmonise between their hearts for the good of their people."
HRW reported that Al-Ouda's brother, Khaled, was also detained after he tweeted about his brother's detention.
"There's no justification for punishing family members of a detainee without showing even the slightest evidence or accusation of wrongdoing on their part," HRW's Middle East Director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said, warning that "Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman's efforts to reform the Saudi economy and society are bound to fail if his justice system scorns the rule of law by ordering arbitrary arrests and punishments."
Since 2011, the Saudi courts have convicted at least 25 prominent activists and dissidents. Many of whom have faced ten to 15-year-long jail terms over accusations that included "breaking allegiance with the ruler, sowing discord, inciting public opinion, and setting up an unlicensed organisation".
The Kingdom carried out another wave of arrests in early November against people they accused of corruption. The detentions included those of prominent royals who have been told to hand over up to 70 per cent of their assets to gain their release.