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Ill-treatment of Saudi human rights defender Mohammed Al-Qahtani continues in prison

The General Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 15 May 2005
The General Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 15 May 2005

-/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on on 23 March 2019.

Prominent human rights defender Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani continues to be ill-treated in Al-Ha'ir criminal prison in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, where he is serving a 10-year sentence for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

On 20 March 2019, Dr. Al-Qahtani was transferred from his cell in the prison to a new wing. His wife, Maha Al Qahtani, wrote on her Twitter account the following tweet: "Early in the morning Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani was transferred without any prior notice so he left behind all his medications and all his personal belongings, despite the notification to the Deputy General of the Department of Prisons and the administration beforehand."

Meanwhile, a reliable report received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that a group of those convicted of serious felony crimes had been placed in the new wing to which Dr. Al-Qahtani and his group have been placed. This may form a serious threat to their safety.

On 18 December 2018, Dr. Al-Qahtani was placed in solitary confinement for a day.

Dr. Al-Qahtani was awarded the 2018 Right Livelihood Award along with Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid and Waleed Abu Al-Khair, who are also in prison in Saudi Arabia. He co-founded the Association for Civil Rights and Political Rights (ACPRA) along with Dr. Al-Hamid.

On 09 March 2013, the Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced Dr. Al-Hamid and Dr. Al-Qahtani to prison on 12 charges including setting up an unlicensed organisation (namely ACPRA), "refusing to submit to the will of the King", "inciting public disorder" and "communicating with foreign entities." Dr. Al-Qahtani received a ten-year sentence.
GCHR believes that the imprisonment and mistreatment of Dr. Al-Qahtani and other human rights defenders is directly related to their peaceful human rights work and the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of opinion and expression

GCHR urges the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally drop all the charges against Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani and free him from prison, along with all unjustly imprisoned human rights defenders;

2. While he is in prison, ensure that Dr. Al-Qahtani is treated in line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners; and

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

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