Why Do Saudi Authorities Continue to Ignore Demands to Disclose Muhammad Fahd Al-Qahtani Fate?

After multiple appeals to disclose his fate, the Saudi authorities finally responded to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances regarding Dr. Muhammad Fahd Al-Qahtani, saying that he is being tried in connection with a new case. But no further information was given about his new charge or his whereabouts.

Dr. Muhammad Fahd Al-Qahtani has been held in Saudi custody for more than ten years. His prison sentence has come to an end last November. But, he was not released and instead moved to an unknown destination amid a total blackout over his fate. His family confirmed that he was in critical health condition prior to his forced disappearance.

The Saudi authorities’ response to the United Nations appeal came on December 21, 2022, saying “he is being held in the Riyadh Reformatory Prison of the Ministry of Interior serving a prison sentence under Article 113 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.”

“His prison sentence has been extended under Article 114 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, as his case is still under investigation. The government strongly denies allegations that Mr. Al-Qahtani has been transferred to a prison run by the Presidency of State Security, and that he has been harassed or assaulted by inmates or any other person,” the communication reads.

However, his family was not allowed access to him till today.

 Five months have passed since the forced disappearance of Dr. Mohamed Al-Qahtani from al-Ha’ir prison. No information has been passed about his fate since Oct. 24 despite his family calls to disclose his whereabouts.

The wife of the imprisoned human rights defender Dr. Mohamed Al-Qahtani launched a cry for help to disclose her husband’s fate after being denied any family contact by the al-Ha’ir Prison administration despite his difficult health situation.

Mrs. Maha Al-Qahtani affirmed that her husband has been denied any family contact since 24 October 2022.

Since then, the Saudi authorities have refused to provide any information about Al-Qahtani, thus subjecting him to enforced disappearance.

The sudden disappearance of Mohamed Al-Qahtani came shortly after he demanded, in a phone call with his wife, that she file a complaint about the repeated harassment and ill-treatment he has faced in prison. However, the phone conversation was suddenly ended, and his fate remained unknown until today.

Al-Qahtani, a former professor at the Riyadh Institute for Diplomatic Studies, was arrested in 2012 along with a large number of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) which called for focus on the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and for an elected parliament and the creation of legal institutions to support transparency and accountability in the Kingdom.

One year later, Al-Qahtani was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by a 10-year travel ban after an unfair and secret trial.

Al-Qahtani is scheduled to be released last November after serving his prison sentence. However, he was moved to an unknown detention centre.

In detention, Al-Qahtani was subjected to repeated harassment and human rights violations, pushing him to declare a hunger strike more than once in protest against his difficult detention conditions.

Together for Justice expresses full solidarity with the Al-Qahtani family, calling on the Saudi authorities to disclose his fate and that of all those who have forcibly disappeared in the Kingdom.

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