Saudi authorities have begun secret trials for a number of detainees including clerics, media figures and academic, social media advocacy group Prisoners of Conscience has reported, warning that the detainees may not be given fair hearings.
"We have been assured that the Saudi authorities have started holding secret hearings to try a number of detainees held in September. Until now, the trials included a number of sheikhs who have recently been transferred from Dhahban prison to Al-Ha'ir, as well as media and academic figures," the group said in a post on Twitter.
The account warned in another post that the secret trials are a major human rights crime, adding that the last victims of these trials were Dr. Mohammed Al-Hadeef and journalist Saleh Al-Hashihi who were sentenced to five years imprisonment each and activists Mohammed Al-Otaibi and Abdullah Al-Alawi who were sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Activists said they fear authorities would try the prisoners in secret under the Terrorism Act and sentence them to long prison terms.
Last September, Saudi Arabia waged a mass campaign of arrests against prominent intellectuals, human rights activists and scholars which many believe was an effort by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to quash the opposition.
Dozens of international human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called on the Saudi authorities to immediately release and allow them to contact their families and lawyers.