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Activist’s letter smuggled out of Saudi jail reveals gross human rights violations

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Dr. Mubarak Aal-Zuair's smuggled letter from Al-Malaz prison in Saudi Arabia.

Dear President of the National Society for Human Rights, may Allah protect him,

Assalamu ‘alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuh,
I raise this case to you, imploring your urgent intervention and immediate support due to the severity and enormity of the offences I face and the blatant violation of a broad range of rights guaranteed by both the basic system of governance and the law of criminal procedures. In the following, I provide a brief summary of my ongoing situation:

I was stopped on King Fahd road (west of the Interior Ministry of Interior), as I was driving my car at around 10 am on Sunday morning 15/4/1432AH (20 March 2011), as I was heading to the Ministry of Interior, where a number of the families of detainees had gone to request a meeting with those in charge. The purpose of the meeting was to request the application of Article 114 of the code of criminal procedures, which specifies a maximum period of detention of six months, after which detainees must either be referred to a court for trial or released.

A number of the families of detainees had previously paid a visit to the Ministry of Interior for this purpose on Sunday 8/4/1432AH (13 March 2011), however they were denied entry and were forced to remain outside the Ministry awaiting permission to enter, which in the end was not granted. We remained until the evening, at which point I received a phone call from (Deputy Interior Minister) Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, in which he set an appointment to meet him the following Friday and requested the dispersion of the crowd. I passed his message on and the crowd dispersed.

I met him on Saturday at the Ministry and we discussed the detainees, the legal violations and the hugely detrimental impact resulting from the continuation of these conditions on various security and social levels. He spoke positively and promised that releases would soon follow. I asked about precisely what I should tell the people who were waiting to know the outcome of the meeting and he assured me of the things he had told me. I told him that I had been receiving a lot of calls from the families of detainees, and his reply was that this was a service and a great deed.

On the next morning, I went to the Ministry of Interior to tell people who were expected to turn up about the meeting, in hope that it might alleviate some of their worries. However, I was shocked to find myself being stopped, searched and handcuffed, as though I were the worst of criminals! I was faced with such treatment despite the fact that I was performing an honourable national duty seeking to calm people down.

In the following, I list multiple offences and violations committed against my person:

The refusal to present the arrest warrant when I requested to see it; the refusal to allow me to make a phone call to my family to inform them about my arrest; the interrogation by the police officers; the refusal to allow me to contact my lawyer; being dealt with harshly and violently while being transported from one place to another, including: being blindfolded, being handcuffed, having my legs bound for many hours and being made to climb staircases in this state, being verbally insulted, humiliated and abused.

I was transported to Al-Malaz police station late on Monday night/early Tuesday morning 17/4/1432AH (22 March 2011) at 2:30 am. I was placed in solitary confinement inside a filthy and cramped toilet that constantly gave off an overwhelmingly repulsive stench of sewage. I was deprived of a bed to sleep or even a mattress, as the floor was bare. The cramped toilet represents a prime example of the methods used to insult people and humiliate them, and to disregard their basic human dignity, let alone their academic standing as a university professor, and let alone someone carrying a message from the Deputy Interior Minister and charged with delivering it to the people to calm them and seeking to find a solution for this longstanding case.

Being prohibited from contacting anyone; being prohibited from the ability to make any phone calls; being deprived from visits; being deprived from having soap and basic personal hygiene materials; the toilet-cell-turned-home to the university professor lacked any form of ventilation or AC; not being provided with additional clothing, or allowing me to arrange for my own to be brought in, until the 6th day!

Some of the guards sympathised with me and gave me a small rug, which became the place on which I used to sit, pray and sleep all day long, and it was these guards who confirmed to me that the authority that gave these strict orders of how to deal with me was the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Branch.

I have had two operations affecting both knees, one of which contains a metal screw to hold it in place, and therefore sleeping on the hard floor of the toilet has had a significant affect on my physical condition.

The reason behind my arrest has nothing to do with the major crimes which justify arrest.
Respected sirs, Dr Muflih al-Qahtani and Dr Saleh al-Khathlan (respectively, President and Vice President of the National Society for Human Rights),

I beseech you in the name of Allah; I beseech you in the name of your honour and humanity, and in your national duty, as well as in light of the responsibility of the Society and its duties...

We are before a shameful scene, which represents an example of how some humans can abuse their authority and exploit their positions within the security apparatus to violate the rights of humans and humiliate their sense of humanity in a most harsh and despicable fashion.

I write to you from the toilet-cell, in which I am imprisoned, and I have nothing but the remainder of my hope and faith in Allah, and I charge you with the responsibility to take action as soon as you receive this letter.

I repeat my appeal that you take immediate action to end this terrible nightmare, which I never imagined would happen while I was carrying that message (from the Deputy Interior Minister) and seeking to perform that task... and it is Allah alone whose help can be sought.

Your brother,

Dr Mubarak bin Sa’eed Aal-Zua’ir
Assistant Professor at Imam Muhammad ibn Saud University, and Researcher specialised in New Media Studies
Al-Malaz Police Detention Centre
Friday 20/4/1432AH (25 March 2011)

P.S. While I was writing this letter, a sandstorm caused large amounts of sand to enter, which caused me to suffocate and become unable to breath. I asked someone to help, but to no avail! When I told the prison guard that I would die from suffocation, his response was: the graveyards are open!

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