A controversy over the issue of arbitrary detainment rose after the popular Saudi TV show MBC 8 PM ran an interview with Waleed al-Sunani, a prisoner who has been imprisoned for eighteen and half years for his ultraconservative Jihadist religious views.
The interview was filmed back in July, and the airtime was delayed two times. In the interview, al-Sunani explained why he denounces his citizenship and allegiance to the Saudi state, describing modern states as being fundamentally secular and accusing Al Saud rulers of being agents to the Unites States and enemies of Islam. He also confirmed his support for Al Qadea in its operations within Saudi Arabia and in fighting the American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The issue of arbitrary detainment has always incited criticism for the Saudi government. Independent human rights sources say that there are over 30,000 arbitrarily imprisoned people [ar], who were arrested without a warrant and have not had access to lawyers and a trial. Many of whom were arrested in the massive, post-9/11 “war on terrorism”.
Some Twitter users thought that al-Sunani is a merely a literal representation of the state-supported Wahabbism. Religious scholar Hakem al-Mutiri tweeted [ar]:
سأعرض فتوى من فتاوى أئمة الدعوة في نجد قبل مئة سنة في شأن أهل الخليج ودخولهم تحت حماية بريطانيا والتي تؤكد أن #السناني ملتزم بها تماما
— أ.د. حاكم المطيري (@DrHAKEM) November 18, 2013
I will submit some fatwas [religious edicts] of Najid major scholars a hundred years ago regarding the Gulf people enrollment under the British projection which confirm that al-Sunani is completely bounded by it.
He then followed by a series of fatwas that attack the early British influence over the Persian Gulf region and incite people to resist it.
Saudi blogger Bader al-Rashed sarcastically tweeted:
ترى كلام السناني هو اللي درسناه في المدارس في كتاب التوحيد لابن عبدالوهاب .. الفرق إن أغلب الطلاب كانوا يشخبطون على الطاولة والأستاذ يشرح.
— بدر الراشد (@BALRashed) November 17, 2013
When al-Sunani is saying is what we studied in the [religious curriculum]. The difference is that most students were drawing on their desks when the teacher was explaining it.
Saudi columnist Ibrahim al-Qahtani criticized the choice of an ultraconservative figure rather than many imprisoned moderate human rights activists such as the members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammad al-Qahtani and Suliman al-Rushodi:
قبل لا تطلع من السجن سير على زنزانة الحامد و القحطاني و الرشودي..فرصة تكشفهم لكافة الشعب و المسلمين #وليد_السناني_في_برنامج_الثامنة
— إبراهيم القحطاني (@brhom) November 17, 2013
Before you leave the prison, go to al-Hamid, al-Qahtani and al-Rushodi's cells. It is your chance to expose them to every Saudi and Muslim.
Saudi blogger Msaaid al-Rushiad commented:
#لقاء_وليد_السناني_مع_الثامنة عموما الي خطط للحلقة كان له هدف ..واضح من الردود ان الهدف جاء عكس ماكان متوقع (:
— مساعد الرشيد (@msa3d_r) November 17, 2013
It is very obvious that those who planned this episode had a goal, and it is also very obvious that the [outcome] was contrary to what was expected.