Saudi Arabia: Arbitrary detention of Bassam AL JALLADI and Mohammed AL WADAEI submitted to UN Working Group

AL JALLADI & AL WADAEI

On 31 May 2024, Alkarama submitted to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) the situation of Bassam AL JALLADI and Mohammed AL WADAEI, two Yemeni nationals arbitrarily detained by the Saudi authorities. 

Bassam AL JALLADI, returned by Yemen to Saudi Arabia 

On 27 May 2019, Bassam AL JALLADI was arrested by regular army soldiers while carrying out administrative procedures in the governorate of Al Mahra. Initially detained in a military prison in Al Mahra, he was then handed over without any legal procedure and without his family being informed, to Saudi Arabia at the beginning of June 2019. He later reported that he was detained in Asir prison in Abha, and then transferred to Dhahban central prison in March 2022, where he is currently being held. 

For more than four months, AL JALLADI was held incommunicado and deprived of all contact with the outside world. It was not until September 2019, when he was being held in Asir prison in Abha, that he was allowed to make his first brief telephone call and inform his family of his situation. 

His family, who have not heard from him since October 2022, recently learned from relatives of other Yemeni co-detainees in Saudi Arabia that AL JALLADI had been sentenced to 36 years' imprisonment by the Specialised Criminal Court for alleged offences for which he had already been prosecuted in Yemen and which had been dismissed. 

AL JALLADI was arrested in Yemen in March 2016 by the ‘security belt forces’ - a militia supported and financed by the United Arab Emirates in the south of the country - on the grounds that he was affiliated to a terrorist organisation and was subjected to severe torture. He was subsequently released in February 2019. 

AL WADAEI, arrested for his publications

Mohammed AL WADAEI, a Yemeni businessman, was arrested on 19 October 2022 by Saudi security forces at the Al Wadiah border crossing on his way to Saudi Arabia, where he has an official residence permit. Since November 2022, he has been held in Al-Tarfiyah prison in Buraidah.

For around three months, he was held incommunicado, before being allowed to make a brief telephone call to his family. It was only when he appeared for the first time a year later before the Specialised Criminal Court that he learned that he was being prosecuted under anti-terrorism and anti-cybercrime laws. He was accused of republishing messages on his Facebook account relating to the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Turkey following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside his country's consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

On 14 May 2024, the Specialised Criminal Court sentenced him to 19 years in prison for this act alone. 

Alkarama stresses the arbitrary nature of their detention

Mandated by the families of the victims, Alkarama submitted the situation of the two Yemenis to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention so that it could call on the Saudi authorities to release them.

In its request for an Opinion, Alkarama highlighted the arbitrary nature of their detention and their conviction by a special court charged with applying repressive and liberticidal laws.

Alkarama recalled the concerns expressed by the various UN experts regarding these laws, indicating that the Saudi authorities do not fail to resort to them in an attempt to justify the condemnation of acts relating to freedom of expression and opinion, as in this case.

It has been stated that the two Yemeni nationals were denied procedural guarantees, thereby violating their right to a fair trial and rendering their deprivation of liberty arbitrary. 

Alkarama stressed that the two victims were placed outside the protection of the law before being sentenced to disproportionate sentences by a biased court under the supervision of the Minister of the Interior.

Alkarama stressed the joint responsibility of Saudi Arabia and Yemen for AL JALLADI's extrajudicial rendition and incommunicado detention, noting that they took place outside any legal framework. The fact that AL JALLADI was returned without any possibility of contesting the legality of this decision by virtue of a clear agreement between the two countries and even though there was a proven risk of torture and arbitrary detention also implicates the responsibility of the Yemeni government.

For these reasons, Alkarama called on the experts of the Working Group to recognise the joint responsibility of Yemen and Saudi Arabia and the arbitrary nature of the detention of the two victims, while calling on the Saudi authorities to release them immediately.