Saudi Arabia: The situation of Mr Mohsen Saleh Nasser AL AWLAKI, a Yemeni national, before the UN Working Group

Détention arbitraire

On August 7, 2023, Alkarama addressed the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) regarding the case of Mr. Mohsen Saleh Nasser AL AWLAKI, a Yemeni national, arrested in Saudi Arabia on May 26, 2021 by the police under the pretext of being a disciple of Nasser Muhammad Al-Yamani, the latter claiming to be the "Mahdi" – an eschatological figure who will come at the end of time to restore religion and justice.

Arbitrary arrest and detention

Mr. AL AWLAKI was arrested on 26 May 2021 by plainclothes police officers at his workplace in Riyadh. No explanation was provided as to the reasons for his arrest and no arrest warrant was presented. His workplace was searched by members of the security services without a warrant.

While his phone and laptop were confiscated without further explanation, he was severely beaten and forcibly taken to the Riyadh police station and transferred after a few days to Dhahban prison in Jeddah.

Mr. AL AWLAKI remained missing for three months after his arrest. Only after this period was he allowed to make a brief telephone call to his family informing them that he was being held in Dhahban prison. As a result of this call, Mr. AL AWLAKI was again completely cut off from the outside world and the authorities denied him the right to contact or receive visits from his family. He has also been denied access to a lawyer since his arrest.

After more than a year in detention, he was brought before magistrates for the first time on 26 July 2022 who informed him of the official charges against him.

Finally brought before the trial court on 7 November 2022, he was sentenced following a speedy trial to 20 years in prison for "membership of the Ansar al-Mahdi group" and for promoting his ideas on social networks.

Violation of the right to a fair trial

Mandated by Mr. ALAWLAKI's family, Alkarama turned to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In its communication, Alkarama noted the flagrant and total disregard for international fair trial standards and thus the arbitrary nature of his detention.

Alkarama said this arbitrary deprivation of liberty is not only aimed at Mr. Al Awlaki, as Riyadh carries out a widespread crackdown on journalists, bloggers, businessmen and generally anyone peacefully expressing opinions on social media contrary to official government policy.  It is well known that this wave of repression has intensified since the crown prince came to power.

The Working Group was invited to recognize the arbitrary nature of Mr. AL AWLAKI's deprivation of liberty and to call on Saudi Arabia to release him.