After imprisoned activist Abdullah al Hamid died in April, Saudi security forces carried out a number of raids on people who had sent condolences or expressed sympathy.
At least three Saudi nationals were detained without explanation or charge after expressing sympathy for a Saudi activist who died in April, a rights group said.
Abdullah al Hamid was serving the penultimate year of a combined 11 year sentence for criticising the Saudi royal family when he died following a stroke, with activists accusing the Saudi authorities of medical neglect. In prison, Hamid had long complained of his ailments and had been advised by a doctor that he needed heart surgery prior to his death.
The Saudi human rights organisation, ALQST, said that after Hamid’s death, three men; Aql al Bahili, Abdulaziz al Dukhail, and Sultan al Ajmi, were arrested by Saudi forces.
According to ALQST, Bahili, a journalist, is being held at the Al Hair prison in Riyadh where he is being denied access to a lawyer or information about the charges he faces.
ALQST has learned that the #Saudi authorities carried out a spate of arrests of journalists and intellectuals for expressing sympathy over the death of Abdullah al-Hamid, including Aql al-Bahili, Abdulaziz al-Dukhail and Sultan al-Ajmi.— ALQST for Human Rights (@ALQST_En) July 21, 2020
Read more here: https://t.co/YSvQLpXGd1 pic.twitter.com/PHMmSdKtPQ
The organisation does not have any information about where Dukhail, a writer, and activist Ajmi, are being held.
The three join hundreds of other activists from across the social spectrum being held in Saudi jails. They range from women’s rights activist, Loujain al Hathloul, and the Muslim religious scholar Salman al Odah.
Odah is facing the death penalty for posting a tweet encouraging reconciliation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia amid the blockade of the Gulf emirate.
Hathloul has been forcibly divorced from her husband, and according to her sister has been regularly tortured and sexually harassed.
Call for inquiry
On coming to power, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the country’s de facto ruler, made an attempt at portraying himself as a reformer.
Under his rule there has been some lifting of the country’s austere social restrictions, such as the opening of cinemas, holding of concerts, and the scrapping of the ban on women driving.
His reformist pretentious, however, took a big blow after the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, by a Saudi hit squad in Istanbul.
Shortly after he took power, MBS ordered the first of several waves of mass arrests that together targeted hundreds of #HRDs, #WHRDs, journalists, academics, lawyers, religious figures, businessmen and even members of the royal family. #StandWithSaudiHeroes#G20SaudiArabia pic.twitter.com/LoOLQJOnui— ALQST for Human Rights (@ALQST_En) July 29, 2020
Turkish and Western intelligence officials have concluded that the killing was ordered by MBS.
But besides the Khashoggi scandal, the prince’s social liberalisation has come coupled with a crackdown on political and social activism, as well as journalism.
Referring to the recent death of journalist Saleh al Shehi shortly after his release from jail in Saudi Arabia as an instance of the dangers journalists face, the rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has demanded a probe into conditions for journalists in the country.