Saudi authorities have unexpectedly transferred a number of detained scholars and clerics to the capital Riyadh in order to prepare them for their trial.
Abdullah Al-Ouda, the son of prominent scholar Salman Al-Ouda, wrote on Twitter today that authorities had quickly moved his father to the capital after the court date was brought forward, taking the family by surprise as his original court date was set to be over a month away.
“Today my family in Saudi was surprised to receive a call from the prison administration to inform them that my father has been quickly transferred to Riyadh for a hearing which was brought forward,” Abdullah wrote in the tweet. He added that the incident took place despite the fact that “the original [court] date is supposed to be more than a month from now. I ask God to make it easy for him and everyone.”
اليوم تفاجأت العائلة باتصال من إدارة السجن على الأهل في السعودية وأخبروهم بنقل الوالد #سلمان_العودة على عجل للرياض لأجل جلسة تم تعجيلها ضمن محاكمة الوالد.. بالرغم من أن الموعد الأساسي يفترض أن يكون بعد أكثر من شهر من الآن.
أسأل الله أن يعجل له بالفرج والجميع
— د. عبدالله العودة (@aalodah) September 18, 2019
Salman Al-Ouda, formerly one of the kingdom’s most popular scholars who were in favour of more democratic measures and political reforms, was detained on September 2017 by Saudi authorities after writing a tweet encouraging the kingdom to end its blockade on Qatar and repair relations with the Gulf state.
In August, Abdullah wrote in the UK-based newspaper the Guardian that “my father calls for reform in Saudi Arabia. Now he faces death.” He added: “He has been held in solitary confinement, where he remains today. He has been mistreated, handcuffed, blindfolded and chained inside his cell, and deprived of sleep and medications – so much so that after five months he had to be taken to hospital.”
“Seventeen members of my family have been banned from travelling; my uncle Khalid was arrested because he tweeted about my father; and I was asked by the Saudi embassy in Washington to go back to Saudi Arabia to ‘renew my passport’, which has been frozen,” Abdullah, who lives in the US, explained.
Salman Al-Ouda’s detainment is one of numerous such cases taking place in Saudi Arabia throughout the past few years and is part of the ongoing crackdown on dissidents and any sign of criticism against the government and its domestic and foreign policy. Al-Ouda’s case also comes in the wake of sweeping social reforms which have been espoused by Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, aiming to end the country’s reliance of petrodollars, encourage tourism and investment and diversify its economy.