Human rights organisations yesterday called on Saudi authorities to provide details regarding the health of activist Mohammed Al-Qahtani who has been imprisoned for years on charges including “conspiring against the state.”
Amnesty International, Human Rights First, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), said in a joint statement that Al-Qahtani, the co-founder of the now dissolved Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), has been incommunicado for six months and noted a heath risk threatening his life.
The statement also called for “the immediate and unconditional release of four ACPRA members who remain in arbitrary detention.”
The organisations accused the Saudi authorities of failing to release Al-Qahtani “on 22 November 2022, when he finished serving his prison sentence. However, since 24 October 2022, Saudi authorities have denied him any contact with his family and continue to keep him in incommunicado detention.”
Al-Qahtani’s family, which tried to inquire about him inside Al-Ha’ir prison to no avail, believes that he has “entered into a hunger strike and his health has considerably deteriorated, putting his life at imminent risk.”
The statement called on the authorities to “disclose the fate and whereabouts of Mohammed al-Qahtani, ensure immediate contact with his family, and provide him with any medical care he may need.”
Last November, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, expressed her concern about the fate of Al-Qahtani, saying: “I am concerned at reports that his family has lost communication with Mohammad Al-Qahtani since 23 October 2022, after filing a complaint about attacks on him by other inmates.”
Lawlor confirmed that the Saudi authorities accused him of allegedly providing false information to outside sources, including UN human rights mechanisms, noting that Al-Qahtani protested several times against his ill-treatment in Al-Ha’ir prison.
The Saudi authorities had dissolved the association founded by Al-Qahtani and his colleagues in 2013, then he was sentenced, in the same year, to ten years in prison on charges of conspiracy against state security and inciting chaos and disobedience, to be followed by a travel ban for the same amount of time.