Five years ago, on September 10, 2017, Saudi security forces arrested the Saudi leading preacher and academic Sheikh Salman Al-Awdah over tweets calling for reconciliation between the Gulf countries following the Qatar siege.
Although the Saudi regime restored full diplomatic relations with Qatar and agreed to lift the blockade early last year, Al-Awdah and many other activists are still held behind Saudi bars, denied from their basic human needs.
State Security interrogators have mistreated Salman Al-Awdah in detention and deprived him of necessary medications. He is still in prolonged solitary confinement with no justification.
Al-Awdah’s family received reports of mistreatment and of his deteriorating health. Well-informed sources confirmed to the family that Al-Awdah was very ill.
Al-Awdah’s son Abdullah Al-Awdah announced that his father “has lost almost half of his hearing and half of his sight,” according to the prison doctor, and that they “still want to harm him”, noting that he is being “abused, tortured, pressured and denied treatment.”
Abdullah Al-Awdah further said that his father has been subjected to a systematic policy of slow death since the first day of his detention.
He pointed out that his father’s sole crime is calling for unity and reconciliation, but he paid a heavy price for this charge.
Al-Awdah faces 37 charges related to his peaceful speech advocating reforms and joining international unions and associations.
In this regard, we stress that Saudi Arabia’s persecution of Al-Awdah violates international law, especially his right to a fair trial, his right to be free from arbitrary detention, and his right to freedom of speech and free association.
As he is still kept in solitary confinement, Saudi authorities continue to refuse independent international monitors’ entry into the country and visit prison and detention centres.
For more than three years, Al-Awdah has been deprived of contact with the outside world and his family, who are also subjected to punitive measures. 19 family members are subjected to travel ban for an indefinite period of time.
The Saudi authorities should immediately release Al-Awdah and end his solitary confinement and enable him to receive the necessary medical treatment before it is too late.
We also stress that prisoners have unalienable rights conferred upon them by international treaties and covenants, have a right to health care, and most certainly have a right not to indefinitely subjected to punitive measures such as solitary confinement.
We conclude by calling on the UN bodies concerned with arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance and torture to take immediate action to reveal the fate of those enforcibly disappeared behind Saudi bars, to pressure the Saudi authorities to respect basic human rights principles, to ensure the immediate release of political detainees.