The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK has written an open letter calling on world leaders to pressure the Saudi authorities to release the detained scholar Salman al Salman Al-Ouda. The following is the full text of their open letter released on 13 February:
To whom it may concern
Re: Salman Al-Ouda, political detainee by Saudi Authorities
After the death of his wife in an accident in 2017, Salman Al-Ouda became everything for his family especially his young children.
Despite this agony, the Saudi regime arrested Al-Ouda in September 2017. Al-Ouda is one of the most popular scholars in Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world. He has advocated for reforms in Islamic discourse and campaigned for political participation, especially in Saudi Arabia. His books include 'A Budding Heart (Autobiography),' 'Questions on Revolution' and 'Questions on Violence'.
Al-Ouda has long faced persecution by successive Saudi governments for his criticism. The General Investigation Forces (al-Mabahith al-Ammah) held him in detention from September 1994 until July 1999 without trial for his criticisms of the Saudi government. The Saudi State Security Forces then arrested him in September 2017. The state prosecutor brought charges against him one year later, in September 2018, at the Specialized Criminal Court, seeking the death penalty on 37 charges related to Al-Ouda's peaceful speech advocating reforms. His trial is ongoing.
State Security interrogators have mistreated Al-Ouda in detention and deprived him of sleep and necessary medications. Beginning in January 2018, the family received reports of mistreatment and deterioration in his health. On January 17, 2018, a source with direct knowledge of Dhahban Prison where Al-Ouda was being held told his family that he was very ill. On February 13, 2018, the family visited him for the first time, after he had been held incommunicado for five months.
During the visit, he reported mistreatment. He said during the first three to five months of his detention, while in Dhahban prison, guards shackled his feet with chains and blindfolded him when moving him between interrogation rooms and his cell. Interrogators interrogated him for more than 24 hours continuously on several occasions, not allowing him to sleep. On one occasion, when he was handcuffed, the guards threw a plastic bag of food at him without removing his handcuffs. He had to open the bag and remove the food with his mouth, causing damage to his teeth. Prison officials denied him the necessary medication until January 2018.
Following this prolonged mistreatment, in mid-January 2018 he was hospitalized for a few days for dangerously high blood pressure.
Furthermore, he was mistreated in Haer prison, during his confinement there, he was brought for trial hearings, he was held in a tiny cell, approximately two meters by two meters (six feet by six feet), with no bathroom, for up to a day. During the transfers between Dhahban and Haer prisons, he was blindfolded, handcuffed, lifted in the air and thrown into the back of a transfer vehicle. He was not secured in a seat and was thrown around the back of the vehicle as it traveled, hitting its ceiling and floor.
Once he was transferred to Haer in late 2019, he continued to be held in solitary confinement. From mid-May 2020 to mid-September 2020, he has been held incommunicado and deprived of contact with the outside world.
In November 2020, he informed the family that when he visited the doctor, the doctor told him that he lost half of his vision and half of his hearing. His condition is deteriorating due to medical negligence.
Mr Al-Ouda did not commit any crime, he is a prisoner of conciseness. We urge you to take the decisive measures to secure his release and enable him to access proper medical care.