Protest to Release Detainees in Riyadh Mall

Relatives of political detainees held a small protest in Riyadh Wednesday night, photos and videos posted to social media sites showed. The protest took place inside Sahara Mall in the northern part of the Saudi capital. The videos below show men marching inside the mall as they chant a hadeeth by the Prophet that says “release the distressed.”




The account @e3teqal on Twitter, which identifies itself as a coordinator for the activities of illegal detention victims in Saudi Arabia, posted a number of photos purporting to show the protest:





UPDATE 6/7/2012 1:10: Mohammad al-Abdulaziz said on Twitter that his brother and his family (wife and three children) have been arrested. It is said that more people have been arrested.

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Are We Fine? Two Saudi Men Detained over YouTube Video

Two Saudi men were detained Sunday in relation to a YouTube video they produced about poverty in Riyadh, colleagues said. Feras Bughnah and Hosam al-Deraiwish were called by the police for questioning Sunday afternoon, and they are still in authorities custody in the police station in Sahafa district in northern Riyadh.

“We asked the guard at the police station if Feras and Hosam were inside the cell and he said yes,” said Asem al-Ghamdi, a reporter for the local news site Sabq who tried to visit the two men in prison yesterday. “The guard agreed to give them food that I brought for them, but he did not let us talk to them.”

Al-Ghamdi said he spoke with an officer at the police station who told him the issue is “simple” and that Feras and Hosam would be released Tuesday morning. However, as of Tuesday evening, the two men remain in detention.

Coincidentally, Monday, October 17, is when the world celebrates the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

While the detention appears related to the video, it is still unclear what was the exact reason for the detention, said one source who is following the case but asked not to be named for fear of retribution from authorities.

“One theory is that they have been detained because their YouTube video was shown on a TV channel owned by the opposition abroad,” he said. “Another theory is that authorities did not like the strong tone of the video and wanted to make an example out of these guys.”

Saudis online took to Twitter to comment on the issue and express their support to the two detained men. Using the hashtag #Mal3ob3lena (which is the name of the YouTube show), users posted more than 17,000 tweets in less than 24 hours since Monday.

“Those who say the truth are detained, while those who steal billions are free,” tweeted Sara Nasser.

Yasser Almisfer said he could never imagine that these two men would be detained because he knows them and he knows how much they care about the country.

“The idea of interrogating the creators of Mal3ob3lena is nauseating,” he tweeted.

UPDATE 10/20/2011 15:50 ET: It’s Thursday, close to 11pm Saudi time and no word on the release of #mal3ob3lena team yet. I spoke to another person familiar with the matter who told me he expects that Feras and his friends will be released in the coming few days.

“Police are waiting for the release order from the governate,” he said. Knowledgeable on the legal process in the country, this person described the detention as “strange,” adding that probably the reason for delaying their release is to send a message to bloggers and activists that there is a line that they should not cross.

“Come on!” he said, “where are we now? Why are these old ways making a comeback? Why are they trying to strangle the future of this country?”

UPDATE 11/1/2011 2:30 Istanbul: After two weeks in detention, Feras and his crew have been released.

Making the Case for the Hunger Strike

When I posted about the hunger strike last week, I did not expect that anyone would try to talk me out of it. But some people actually did. Some think it is not a worthy cause; some think it is pointless and would have no effect; and some told me they have been intimidated by what they described as “aggressive campaigning” online. To those I say: forget the hoopla; forget the banners; and forget all the coverage.

You think I’m doing this to get media attention? I don’t need media attention. I already have the media attention. I see the hunger strike as my little personal gesture to the detainees. I don’t know what it would mean to them or if they even know about it, but it certainly means something to me. It means that I do not accept injustice. It means that as much as I’m proud of this country, I’m disappointed by how it repeatedly fails to live up to its highest standards. It means that I believe we are better than this and we deserve better than this.

“What about 75 Saudis detained in Guantánamo Bay? They don’t deserve to be supported?” one of the hunger strike opponents asked. I never said they don’t. Nobody did. And if their lawyers and families started a campaign tomorrow I would not hesitate to join and support them. However, I believe that our government is responsible before us more than any other government. We frequently criticize the US for their double standards and failing to respect the principles they preach. That’s fair. But charity begins at home, and it is our moral obligation to our nation that we remind it with the great ideals that it stands for.

If you think this hunger strike will achieve nothing and therefor don’t want to participate that’s okay, but please don’t try to make of it what it is simply not. If you decided to participate, then think why you are doing it; don’t just follow the crowd blindly, and be sure that you can make the case for this. It will be more meaningful and far more rewarding.

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Call for Hunger Strike

The defense teams of jailed human rights activists in Saudi Arabia have issued a statement this week saying that after exerting all means to get fair treatment to the constitutional movement’s detainees, they have decided to observe a 48-hour hunger strike. The proposed strike will take place on Thursday and Friday, 6-7 November 2008, in protest against flagrant human rights violations for all detainees in Saudi prisons who have been deprived of their basic rights as guaranteed by the Law of Criminal Procedures and Arrest and Detention Law, which stated the following:

  • The Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution shall conduct its investigation and prosecution in accordance with its Law and the implementing regulations thereof (Article 14).
  • During the investigation, the accused shall have the right to seek the assistance of a representative or an attorney (Article 64)…… to defend him during the investigation and trial stages (Article 4).
  • An arrested person shall not be subjected to any bodily or moral harm. Similarly, he shall not be subjected to any torture or degrading treatment (Article 2).
  • Whoever is arrested or detained shall be promptly notified of the reasons for his arrest or detention and shall be entitled to communicate with any person of his choice to inform him of his arrest (Article 116).
  • In all cases, the Investigator shall order that the accused may not communicate with any other prisoner or detainee, and that he not be visited by anyone (i.e., solitary confinements) for a period not exceeding sixty days if the interest of the investigation so requires, without prejudice to the right of the accused to communicate with his representative or attorney (Article 119).
  • In cases that require detention for a longer period, the matter shall be referred to the Director of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution to issue an order that the arrest be extended for a period or successive periods none of which shall exceed thirty days and their aggregate shall not exceed six months from the date of arrest of the accused. Thereafter, the accused shall be directly transferred to the competent court, or be released (Article 114).
  • Court hearings shall be public (Article 155). The judgment shall be read in an open session at which the parties must be present……. supporting evidence and arguments, the stages of the action, the text of the judgment, reasons and legal bases therefore, and whether it was rendered unanimously or by majority vote (Article 182).
  • A visitation right for prisoners by their family members, friends and legal counselors (Arrest and Detention Law, Article 12)

The defense team declared their observance of a hunger strike in solidarity with following jailed human right activists from the constitutional movement and civil society in Saudi Arabia:

  1. Professor Matrook H. Al-Faleh, political science professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, detained by security forces in May 19, 2008.
  2. Attorney Suliman Ibrahim Al-Reshoudi, former judge and human-right advocate, detained in February 2, 2007.
  3. Attorney Dr. Mousa Mohammed Al-Qarni, former university professor and human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  4. Professor Abdulrahman Mohammed Al-Shomari, former professor of education and human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  5. Dr. Abdulaziz Suliman Al-Khereiji, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  6. Saifaldeen Faisal Al-Sherif, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  7. Fahd Alskaree Al-Qurashi, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  8. Abdulrahman Bin Sadiq, Human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  9. Dr. Saud Mohammed Al-Hashemi, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  10. Ali Khosifan Al-Qarni, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  11. Mansour Salim Al-Otha, human-right activist, detained in December 12, 2007.

They, furthermore, announced their sympathy with all opinion prisoners in the Saudi jails who suffer human right abuses with no fair chances of defending themselves in accordance with the Law of Criminal Procedures and by getting fair and just trials. Many activists have answered the call (their names will be announced at a later date), and they will participate in the proposed 48-hour hunger strike during the two specified dates to show their objection against the repeated violations of the criminal and detention laws vis-à-vis jailed activists. The demand is quite simple: either to set the detainees free or instantly grant them fair and public trials.

They welcome all activists and citizens who have conscious feelings and interested in participating in the proposed hunger strike to show sympathy and solidarity with all detainees whose basic rights have been violated. Their names and information can be registered by calling members of the defense teams whose phone numbers appear below.

Names of the members of the defense teams who are participating in the hunger strike to show solidarity with the aforementioned detainees:

  1. Ayman Mohammad Al-Rashed, human-right activist. Mobile# +966505288354
  2. Saud Ahmed Al-Degaither, human-right activist. Mobile# +966559201964
  3. Professor Abdulkareem Yousef Al-Khadher, College of Islamic Jurisprudence, Qassim University. Mobil# +966503331113
  4. Dr. Abdulrahman Hamed Al-Hamed, professor of Islamic economics. Mobile# +966503774446
  5. Abdullah Mohammad Al-Zahrani, human-right activist.
  6. Abdulmohsin Ali Al-Ayashi, human-right activist. Mobile# +966553644636
  7. Fahd Abdulaziz Al-Oraini, human-right activist. Mobile# +966502566678. Email: fahadalorani@gmail.com
  8. Fowzan Mohsin Al-Harbi, Human-right activist. Mobile# +966501916774 Email: fowzanm@gmail.com
  9. Dr. Mohammad Fahd Al-Qahtani, college professor and TV show host. Mobile# +966555464345. Email: moh.alqahtani@gmail.com
  10. Mohana Mohammed Al-Faleh, human-right activist. Mobile# +966505388205
  11. Nasser Salim Al-Otha, human-right activist.
  12. Hashim Abdullah Al-Refai, writer and activist.
  13. Waleed Sami Abu Alkhair, writer and activist. Mobile# +966567761788. Fax# +96614272168. Email: abualkair@gmail.com

This act of peaceful protest is the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia and I believe this is the least we can do for those people. Please join the call and spread the word.

Fouad’s Letter

I received a copy from the letter sent by Fouad to his friends a few days before his arrest. This letter provides some details on the reasons behind his arrest. Here’s the text of the letter:

I was told that there is an official order from a high-ranking official in the Ministry of the Interior to investigate me. They will pick me up anytime in the next 2 weeks.

The issue that caused all of this is because I wrote about the political prisoners here in Saudi Arabia and they think I’m running a online campaign promoting their issue. All what I did is wrote some pieces and put side banners and asked other bloggers to do the same.

He asked me to comply with him and sign an apology. I’m not sure if I’m ready to do that. An apology for what? Apologizing because I said the government is liar when they accused those guys to be supporting terrorism?

To expect the worst which is to be jailed for 3 days till we write good feedback about you and let u go. There may be no jial and only apologizing letter. But, if it’s more than three days, it should be out. I don’t want to be forgotten in jail.

Don’t worry Fouad, we are here for you and we will do our best until you’re free and back to your family and friends. We will not forget you.