The Saudi detainee, Mohamed Al-Otaibi, founder of Al-Ittihad Society, completed four full years behind bars last Monday, May 24.
Four years ago he got arrested after being deported from Qatar to Saudi Arabia while traveling to Norway, in which he was granted a refugee status due to the restrictions that he faced in Saudi Arabia.
Mohamed Al-Otaibi, one of the most prominent human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia and known for calling for civil reform, was brought to trial before the Specialized Criminal Court, with a list of charges, including publishing statements on the Internet, insulting the reputation of the Kingdom, its policy, security and judicial institutions, and aiming at affecting the national cohesion and undermining the prestige, security and stability of the state, and “publishing information about the investigation procedures with him after their pledge not to publish.”
In January 2018, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison, after an unfair trial that lacked all minimum standards for a fair trial; a ruling criticized by international and local human rights organizations for “contradicting the crown prince’s recently declared ambitions to modernize the kingdom.” Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Campaigns Director, said, “The harsh sentence against Mohamed Al-Otaibi, who should not have been prosecuted in the first place, highlights our concerns that the new leadership of Mohamed bin Salman is determined to silence civil society and human rights, defenders.”
Despite all the criticism and appeals, the Saudi response was to increase the prison sentence against him to 17 years, adding three years to the previous sentence of 14 years in prison.
It seems that this harsh response was an answer to the repeated hunger strikes that Al-Otaibi started inside his prison in protest against the cruel and inhuman conditions of detention and the ill-treatment, as he and a number of prisoners of conscience in Dammam Prison had declared a hunger strike last February.
Al-Otaibi suspended his strike following promises from the prison administration to meet his demands represented and transfer to Jeddah prison, where the family lives who suffer from traveling every visit to Dammam Prison.
Al-Otaibi had previously announced a hunger strike in May 2019 to protest the miserable conditions inside his prison cell in Dammam Prison, and according to the family, Al-Otaibi began this strike after being imprisoned with another prisoner who intentionally abused him with the knowledge of the prison administration, in addition to the repeated denial of contacting his family.
Together for Justice affirms that the continued imprisonment of Al-Otaibi and other prisoners of conscience is a shame on the Saudi regime, which claims to be keen on human rights, while its actions against civil society and opponents indicate the total opposite.
Together for Justice that for the Crown Prince to show his reforms, he must guarantee an immediate and unconditional release to all prisoners of conscience, including human rights defenders who are being detained solely for exercising their most basic rights of expression.