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Saudi Arabia: Government Pressured to Issue Statement on “Uncharged” Detainees

Following a wave of unprecedented small demos that swept the county to protest arbitrary detention, the Saudi Interior Ministry finally issued a statement on the issue. The statement came in three points:

  1. All Cases of all the detainees on charges relating to activities and crimes of the deviant group are currently subject to judicial procedures of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution and the Specialized Criminal Court and preliminary and general verdicts had been issued against some of the defendants, while others still awaiting trial.
  2. All detainees, whether convicted or accused enjoy all legitimate, and human rights, which are being implemented under the supervision of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution, Human Rights Commission and the National Society for Human Rights.
  3. All the detainees and their families have access to the right financial expenses and support to meet the requirements of their living, health and education conditions.

(The term they actually used in the Arabic statement was not legitimate [rights] but sharia-compliant)

Furthermore, the statement included details about certain “detainees whose names have been repeated in a series of limited protests”, including human rights activist Mohammad al-Bejady whose charge was described as “contacting foreign entities to spread insecurity, and other crimes”.

Imprisonment without charges is the top human rights issue in Saudi Arabia. Independent human rights organization Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association's estimate of the number of uncharged prisoners is over 30,000, while the government-sponsored estimate is 4,396. Many were arrested in the massive, post-9/11 “war on terrorism”.

The statement was described in locally-licensed newspapers as being “fact-revealing”. Popular online newspaper Sabaq commented:

“الداخلية” توضّح حقائق استغلال قضايا الموقوفين والمحكومين في جرائم الفئة الضالة

@sabqorg: The Interior Ministry revealed facts on taking advantage of the issue of detainees and prisoners with charges relating to the deviant group.

Editor-in-chief of national al-Eqtisadya newspaper, Salman al-Dosary, tweeted:

#السعودية البلد الوحيد في العالم الذي يدافع فيه ناشطين حقوق الانسان عن مفجرين ومهربين يورانيوم ومتهمين بجرائم ارهابية.. #بيان_الداخلية

@SalmanAldosary: Saudi Arabia is the only country in which human rights activists defend exploders, Uranium traffickers and people charged with terrorism.

On the other hand, many Twitter users expressed discontent, including the relatives of arbitrarily-detained prisoners. Nourah Suliman, the sister of one of those prisoners, tweeted:

#بيان_الداخلية أشهد أمام العالم أننا كذوي معتقل لم نأخذ من الداخلية ريال واحد حتى أننا كنا نسافر للزيارة من الرياض ﻷبها على نفقتنا الخاصة! 1

@A5tSJEEN: I testify before the whole world that we, as a family of a prisoner, did not receive a riyal from the Interior Ministry. We even pay the costs of traveling from [southern city] Abha to Riyadh to visit.

Joking about a detainee's crime which was described in the statement as “marketing Uranium”, popular Saudi columnist Essam al-Zamel tweeted:

قلنا لكم حلّوا مشكلة البطالة ووظفوا الشباب قبل لا يطيحون ببيع اليورانيوم. #بيان_الداخلية

@essamz: We did warn you: Solve the unemployment problem, or else young people will fall into selling Uranium.

Twitter user Souhayl al-Yammi tweeted:

كنت على وشك تصديق #بيان_الداخلية حتى رأيت اسم البجادي وتهمته ضمن القائمة .

@agrni: I was about to believe the Interior Ministry statement, until I read al-Bejady's name and charges.

Famous Saudi blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, tweeted:

الجهة الخارجية التي يقصد #بيان_الداخلية أن #البجادي تعامل معها هي الشعب.

@alfarhan: The foreign entity mentioned in the Interior Ministry statement that al-Bejady dealt with was the people.

And Saudi blogger Khaled Yeslam tweeted a popular George Carline quote:

@kyeslam: “I have certain rules I live by. My first rule: I don’t believe anything the government tells me” – George Carlin

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