Saudi Arabia: Mohammed Abdullah Al-Otaibi ill-treated in prison

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Human rights defender Mohammed Abdullah Al-Otaibi, who is serving a 14 years prison sentence, is facing ill-treatment in the General Intelligence Prison in Al-Dhamam.

According to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Al-Otaibi has been prevented from calling his family during the holy month of Ramadan. He has the right to a daily telephone call with his relatives by law, however he was only allowed to call them on a weekly basis. Furthermore, prison guards have not allowed him to call his family weekly.
Visits have been restricted as well. As a matter of fact, his family has been visiting him only one time every 45 days. This treatment and these restrictions violate the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules).

Al-Otaibi is now facing a 14-year prison sentence. He was charged for participating in setting up a human rights organisation and announcing it prior to obtaining an official permit; preparing and signing petitions and publishing them on the Internet, which harms the reputation of the Kingdom and its justice and security institutions; publishing information about their interrogation despite signing pledges not to do so; spreading chaos and incited public opinion; re-tweeting a tweet first published by a member of the Civil and Political Rights Association in Saudi Arabia (ACPRA) and human rights defender Issa Al-Hamed, who is currently in prison.

In April 2013 Al-Otaibi and his colleague Abdulla Madhi Al-Attawi founded a human rights organisation called “Union of Human Rights”. However, the organisation has never received the licence from the government, thus just one month after its foundation, the Public Prosecutor summoned both co-founders for questioning. The main objectives were to defend the rights of citizens, spread the culture of human rights, abolish the death penalty, and to strengthen the role of women in society.
In March 2014, they were again summoned for interrogation on similar charges and as the authorities made pressure on them, they both pledge to stop publishing statements and participating to interviews.

In October 2016, the trial on Mr. Al Otaibi and Al Atawi started before the Specialised Criminal Court, which is usually in charge of cases of terrorism. The first hearing took place on 30 October 2016 where the two were not assisted by legal counsel.
In such situation, on 30 March 2017, Al-Otaibi fled Saudi Arabia and went to Qatar. Meanwhile, he and his wife were planning to go to Norway as the Norwegian government agreed on providing them with documents and the refugee status. Nevertheless, on 28 May 2017 Al-Otaibi was deported from Qatar to Saudi Arabia while he was going to Norway. He was arrested and he has been in prison since then.

On January 2018, the Saudi Specialised Criminal Court sentenced Al-Otaibi and his colleague Al-Attawi to 14 and 7 years in prison respectively. Later, both sentences were upheld by the Saudi Specialised Court.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) strongly condemns the ill-treatment to which Mohammed Abdullah Al-Otaibi is subject to in prison. WE call upon the Saudi government to release the human rights defender immediately.