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Saud Al-Hashimi held, tortured in Saudi jails for 17 years

Saud Al-Hashemi, a Saudi scholar and family medicine professor at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, spent almost twenty years in prison for trying to start a political party in the Kingdom to advocate for a democratic constitutional monarchy. But because the Saudi regime considered these attempts to be crimes deserving of the harshest punishment possible, he was detained over 17 years ago, found guilty, and sentenced to 30 years in prison, a travel ban that would last for the same amount of time after his release, along with a two million riyal fine.

One of the most well-known political prisoners in Saudi Arabia, Dr. Saud Al-Hashemi was detained in 2007 for his meetings discussing the establishment of democratic methods for governing the country, along with several other thinkers, scholars, and academics.

During a public discussion about various political and reform matters in Saudi Arabia, on Friday, February 2, 2007, Dr. Saud Al-Hashemi and eight other friends, scholars, lawyers, and thinkers were arrested from a rest house in Jeddah. They had gathered to draft a document on political reform to present to the king when they were all brought to an undisclosed location. This location subsequently proved to be the General Investigation headquarters in Jeddah, where they endured a barrage of beatings and other forms of torture in an attempt to coerce them into confessing to charges of funding and endorsing terrorism. Seven more people were detained in the middle of 2010 and placed with the other nine in what was referred to as the “rest cell.” Only after three and a half years of arbitrary detention and denial of the right to choose a lawyer to represent them, they were brought before the public prosecution and officially charged.

Under the most cruel conditions, Dr. Saud Al-Hashemi was tortured in the General Investigation headquarters, Al-Ha’ir Prison in Riyadh, and Dhahban Prison in Jeddah. In addition, he was denied communication with his family for over two years. Afterward, they were permitted to see him once a month, and during those visits, they were subjected to numerous severe violations and security harassment. Dr. Al-Hashemi informed them that he had been subjected to torture since the day of his arrest and that his conditions in detention are subpar. He is being held in a 1 m × 2 m solitary confinement cell, where his hands and feet are always tied, he is not permitted to use the restroom except on rare occasions. He added that he was beaten and stripped of all his clothes save his underwear before being made to sign a waiver giving up his right to have an attorney represent him. A year later, he informed them that he and the detainee, Dr. Musa Al-Qarni, had been placed in solitary confinement, while seven of the initial group of inmates had been moved to normal cells.

The lawyers for the defendants stated that they had complained to the Saudi authorities about the legal violations against their clients, but that the complaints had all been dismissed. In letters to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, the Deputy Minister of Interior, and other officials, the defendants’ lawyer also claimed that the investigations his clients’ cases involved numerous legal violations and voiced his disapproval of the accused’s arrest, inspection, and investigation processes.

Nevertheless, on November 22, 2011, the Security Court in Riyadh found the defendants guilty and sentenced them to life in prison. They were charged with trying to topple the government, funding terrorism, inciting opposition to the government, money laundering, and using the Kharijite method of labeling the rulers as unbelievers. The defense attorneys for the defendants called these trials absurd, saying that they were politicized and did not meet the minimal requirements of a fair trial because all inmates were not allowed to name an attorney to represent them in court, the sessions were held in secret, and families and attorneys were not allowed to take pictures of the case files. The attorneys continued by saying that some of the accused had their hands and feet tied and were blindfolded when they appeared in court.

Throughout the majority of his incarceration, Dr. Saud was kept in an unfit, small solitary cell without access to any amenities. He endured acute malnourishment and was not allowed to leave the cell or speak to anyone. When all of these conditions came together, he experienced strokes that left him unable to move for a while. Despite this, he was not given any first aid or medical attention to treat his stroke, and he also had a number of chronic illnesses and geriatric conditions despite being arrested when he was 43 years old.

Private sources affirmed that despite the low winter temperatures, the management of Dr. Saud Al-Hashemi’s detention center at Dhahban Prison in Jeddah is moving him to a freezing solitary cell and refusing to give him any blankets or bulky clothing in an effort to subject him to additional torture. The sources further said that the transfer occurs after the doctor has been beaten, tortured, and insulted.

In this regard, Together for Justice calls on international decision-makers to intervene urgently to save the life of the detained Dr. Saud Al-Hashemi, whose continued detention poses an imminent danger to his life due to the ill-treatment and deliberate medical negligence he is suffering from.

In addition, Together for Justice urges all human rights advocates worldwide to write on Dr. Saud Al-Hashemi’s suffering and inform the appropriate international authorities in order to intervene and put pressure on the Saudi regime to free him and all political prisoners in the Kingdom.

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