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13 Years in Detention: The Ongoing Struggle of Saudi Writer Fadel Al-Manasif

Nearly 13 years ago, Saudi authorities arbitrarily arrested journalist and blogger Fadel Al-Manasif following a series of articles and tweets criticising the government’s collective punishment policies against dissidents’ families. He also called for the immediate release of political detainees and demanded their rights under international laws and constitutions.

Al-Manasif was arrested in October 2011, shortly after Saudi security forces detained two elderly citizens, Saeed Abdullah Al-Abd Al-Aal and Hassan Ahmed Ali Al-Zaid, to pressure their sons who participated in the 2011 protests in Al-Awamiyah, Qatif. This act was widely condemned by activists and human rights defenders.

In protest, Al-Manasif went to the Al-Awamiyah police station to argue that arresting elderly men to force their relatives to surrender was both inappropriate and illegal. However, the police deemed his actions a threat to public security and arrested him, transferring him to Dammam’s intelligence office. Since that day, Al-Manasif has lost his freedom for defending citizens’ rights.

This was not Al-Manasif’s first arrest. He had previously been detained three times by Saudi security for his prominent role in documenting and exposing numerous human rights violations committed by the Saudi regime against dissidents, activists, and their families. His first arrest was in 2009 for participating in a peaceful protest, the second in April 2011, and the third in October 2011.

According to confidential sources, Al-Manasif suffered severe mistreatment and brutal torture during his second and third arrests to extract confessions. He was beaten, blindfolded for long hours, forced to stand while handcuffed, and subjected to electric shocks.

Moreover, Al-Manasif endured prolonged solitary confinement, including a continuous four-month period. His family was only allowed to visit him after about ten months of his detention, and even now, visits and phone calls are irregular, with significant obstruction from the prison administration.

After years of arbitrary detention and deprivation of basic legal rights, such as appointing a lawyer, the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced Al-Manasif in a secret session in April 2014 to 15 years in prison, followed by a 15-year travel ban, and a fine of 100,000 Saudi riyals. The court relied on coerced confessions obtained under torture.

The sentence against Al-Manasif is flawed and illegal, with numerous legal violations, similar to other rulings by this court, which has become a tool for the current Saudi regime to retaliate against and oppress its opponents.

According to the indictment, Al-Manasif was accused of participating in opposition protests and “defaming the kingdom” by communicating with foreigners and publishing articles online, even though all the protests were peaceful and demanded democratic principles and respect for human rights.

Fadel Maki Al-Manasif is a Saudi blogger, writer, photographer, and founding member of the Justice Center for Human Rights. He was a candidate to be part of the youth delegation that engaged in dialogue with security authorities and the Eastern Province emirate following the increase in protests in Qatif.

We urge the international community, which claims to respect human rights and work towards establishing justice and freedom globally, to take a decisive and serious stance against the escalating violations by the Saudi regime against dissidents and activists who fill its prisons. We call for the cessation of cooperation with the regime until all political detainees are released and human rights conditions improve within the kingdom.

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