Dozens of Saudi prisoners have started a hunger strike to protest the crown prince’s policy of repression in the kingdom.
Since Mohammed bin Salman became the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in 2017, the number of opposition activists has risen significantly.
Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 60 people are currently behind bars in the kingdom for expressing views that don’t align with the government.
Prisoners of Conscience - a network of activists and scholars in solidarity with imprisoned Saudis - reported that detainee Doctor Abdullah al Hamed, announced on Sunday that he was entering a hunger strike.
“His will is to protest his arrest and the ill-treatment he was subjected to, along with a number of Muslim scholars and human rights activists in Saudi prisons”, the solidarity network said.
A number of detained Muslim scholars joined the human rights activist’s strike and promised to provide a list of detainees who had become involved.
The hunger strike is being carried out for the first time in Saudi prisons since the crackdown on Saudi activists and scholars at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh.
🔴Breaking News:— Prisoners of Conscie (@m3takl_en) February 17, 2019
Dr. Abdulrahman al-Hamid, a member of the Saudi Association for Political and Civil Rights (ACPRA) joins the open hunger strike inside Saudi prisons to be the fifth of them.#اضراب_المشايخ_بالسجون pic.twitter.com/Bm31O3A7Y0
Call by opposition scholars and activists
The co-founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) Hamed has in the past called on Saudi authorities to release all activists who are involved in peaceful work.
The activist, who has been arrested six times in the past, said four other detainees -- Abdulkarim al Khader, Fawzan al Harbi, Mohammed Fahd al Qahtani and Abdul Rahman al Hamed -- had also announced hunger strikes.
In a statement published by Prisoners of Conscience on Twitter, which monitors detainee affairs in Saudi Arabia, Hamed said that he had already put forward three initiatives - one of them three years ago - to demand the release of detained activists, but without any progress.
Former Royal Saudi Air Force member and Saudi human rights activist Yahya Assiri tweeted that Hamed had declared a hunger strike to protest against the arrest of people who want reforms.
In a previous statement, Assiri called for pressure on Saudi Arabia to release the detainees, saying that Crown Prince Mohammed was unlikely to respond to the strike.
🔴 We confirm the increase of the number of conscience detainees in Saudi Arabia to 2,613, including prominent lawyers, judges, academics, scientists and journalists. pic.twitter.com/vyTz8pbL3E— Prisoners of Conscie (@m3takl_en) September 16, 2018
The Prisoners of Conscience statement called for the immediate release of all jailed activists and said: "We hope this move would bear fruit soon."
There was no comment from Saudi authorities on the report.
The hunger strike has won support from the son of jailed preacher Salman al Ouda.
"The strike draws the attention to systematic violations against all detainees," Abdullah al Ouda said on Twitter.
The world has not forgotten the women detained and tortured in #Saudi Arabia.— Amnesty Gulf (@amnestygulf) February 15, 2019
"Eman, the world has not forgotten about you ... We will continue to speak up for you until you are released and reunited with your children again." #StandWithSaudiHeroes https://t.co/7Bu0kMVlbk pic.twitter.com/gCh0dB49Dh