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Saudi Prisoners On and Off Hunger Strikes

Last week, the Twitter account dedicated to Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA ) member, Mohammed Al-Bjadi, @FreeAlbjadi, published two letters written by Mohammed Al-Bjadi in prison last year.

The account explained their decision to publish the letters [ar]:

@freealbjadi: لماذاسننشر هاتين الرسالتين؟ لأن وزارة الداخلية السعودية ممثلة بالمتحدث الرسمي لها نفوا أن #محمد_البجادي أضرب عن الطعام بينما الرسالة تثبت ذلك

Why publish the letters? Because Ministry of Interior through its official spokesperson has denied that Mohammed Al-Bjadi went on a hunger strike.

The account was referring to this statement by Mansour Al-Turki, Spokesperson for the Saudi Ministry of Interior, where he denied the hunger strike and confirmed that Al-Bjadi is in good health.

The First letterwas translated by @aliasaffar as follows:

“In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
After a hunger strike that lasted 30 days, I appeared before the judge al-Abdullatif on Tuesday 18/05/1433 AH (10/04/2012) in the judicial office #7, to be sentenced unjustly and arbitrarily for 4 years in prison and a 5-years travel ban afterwards, knowing that I didn’t acknowledge the legitimacy of the court, nor its procedures since that my representatives were not allowed to attend and I was not allowed to choose a representative freely. Also, the court did not allow for a public trial as required by laws and regulations, but rather the trial was held secretly with the attendance of soldiers wearing their military uniform. The soldiers were : undersergeant Fahad al-Shammari, corporal Majid al-Qahtani, a private first class that I don’t know his name, and a General Major nicknamed Abu Misfer, in addition to a civilian-clothed person who claimed to be representing the Human Rights Council, which made the judge say that the trial is held publicly and in accordance to laws and regulations. The judge pointed to the office’s door, saying “here is the office’s door open and anyone can attend the trial. We do not disallow from attending,” noting that he refused to answer my repeated question in the previous sessions of why my representatives are not allowed to attend the trial, or why I was not permitted to hire another ones in case he [the judge] didn’t accept them as representatives. My charges were, first, collaborating in establishing a society for human rights; second, distorting the state’s image in media; third, challenging the judiciary independence; fourth, calling on the families of political prisoners to hold protests and sit-ins; and fifth, possessing prohibited books like “al-Arab Dhahira Sawtiya” by Abdullah al-Qassimi, “Kifahi” by Adolf Hitler, and “Naqd ala Naqd” by Abu Bilal [a fellow Saudi human rights activist Abdullah al-Hamid who was sentenced for 11 years in prison earlier this year]. For that I decided not to respond to these charges and described the court as phoney and the trial as a comic play directed by the executive branch (Ministry of Interior), whose hero is the judiciary branch (Specialized Criminal Court) and its representatives (Public Prosecutor and assigned Judge al-Abdullatif), and the victim is the defendant, Mohammad al-Bajadi. I note to you that I have not received the verdict record (‘saq al-hukm) and I’m not aware of what procedures they are going to carry out [against me] after I leave the court.”

I (@_TheHadeel)translated the second letter:

“In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful.
From Mohammad Al-Bjadi (Abu Turki) to Dr. Mohammad Al-Qahtani (Abu Abdullah) and to my fellow representatives and association colleagues.
Peace and Allah's mercy and blessings be upon you.
I want to inform you that I am still on strike and refusing food, visits and calls since 18-4-1433 (12-3-2012) until this moment. On Tuesday 27-4-1433 (21-3-2012), however, I was taken to the prison hospital for a check up and was force-fed through an IV line in the presence of 5 soldiers and the ward's officer (Abu Rashid). Also, I was taken to the prison hospital again on Saturday 1-5-1433 (24-3-2012) for a check up and was told I will be force-fed through nose tubes. I fought with one of the officials whose name I don't know, which led them to back away from doing so. But I might be taken and force-fed at any moment, because I lost almost 10 kilos of weight and my blood sugar is dangerously low and I have lost enzymes, as they have told me.
Finally, I wish you would ask to meet me in prison considering that you are my representatives.
Thank you for your efforts,
4-5-1433 (27-3-2012)
Al-Hair Prison
Ward 5 – Room 10
Prison Number 2/888″

Mohammed Al-Bjadi was detained on March 21, 2011. He last called his family on September 19, 2012, to tell them he was going on a hunger strike for the third time. They haven't heard from him since.

Both Amnesty and Gulf Center for Human Rights have protested banning Al-Bjadi from contacting his family and lawyer and demanded the immediate disclose of his whereabouts and his health condition.

After the two letters were published and circulated on Twitter, the Ministry of Interior called Al-Bjadi's wife to tell her they won't allow him to contact his family until he breaks the hunger strike.

Mohammed's brother tweeted:

@t3aun اليوم إتصلت وزارة الدخليّة على زوجة #محمد_البجادي تفيد بمنع الزيارة أو حتى الإتصال بسبب إضرابه!
على أساس إنها تقدر تزوره أو تكلمه قبل؟

Today, MOI called Mohammed Al-Bjadi's wife to tell her that he's not allowed visits or even phone calls because he's on strike!
As if she was allowed to visit or call him before!

Also, a video of his mother was uploaded on YouTube where she says:

Minister of interior, where is my son Mohammed? It's been nine months. We don't know if he's dead or alive and you won't return our calls.

Al-Bjadi's lawyer and current Vice-President of ACPRA, Fowzan al-Harbi, has submitted continuous requests to meet Al-Bjadi but has not received any reply.

In a similar story, Sayyed Aqeel Al-Shakhouri has gone on two hunger strikes demanding a trial. Sayyed Aqeel was detained on October 2011 from his work place for his participation in the peaceful protests that stormed Qatif, after the so called Arab Spring.

When he was first detained, he faced physical and psychological torture and was kept in solitary confinement for months. He went on his first hunger strike in September 2012 and ended it after authorities promised to charge and try him, but those turned to be empty promises.

He went on a hunger strike again on April 30, 2013, and ended it on May 29.

According to his wife, he ended his hunger strike after he faced harassment from Security forces guarding him at the hospital he was moved to. “He was chained to the bed at all times,” his wife told me. “When he asked to pray, they would ignore him. It bothered him to delay prayer,” she said.

Sayyed Aqeel Al-Shakouri has been in jail for over 19 months without being officially charged or tried.

“I will not give up. I'll keep calling here and there and gather some more promises, even if they are false one, to put him on trial,” his wife vows.

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