SAUDI ARABIA: The UN Working Group seized by the arbitrary detention of Aida Al Ghamdi and her son Adel Al Ghamdi

عائدة الغامدي

On 14 September 2022, Alkarama submitted the situation of Aida AL GHAMDI and her son, Adel AL GHAMDI, to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Both were arrested, without a judicial warrant, on 26 March 2018 by agents of the General Directorate of Investigations of the Ministry of Interior (the "Mabahiths") in plain clothes while driving in a neighborhood of Jeddah.

The facts

On 26 March 2018, Aida Al Ghamdi and her youngest son, Adel Al Ghamdi, were both arrested without a warrant by plainclothes members of the Mabahiths while in their car at the Hay al Jamiaa shopping center.

The Mabahiths arrived in several vehicles and forced them to stop before taking them by force to an unknown destination. 

At the same time as their arrest, another son of Aida Al Ghamdi, Sultan Al Ghamdi, was arrested in Dammam.

He was immediately transferred to Riyadh to the premises of the Mabahiths where he was forced to record a video in which he denounced his brother Abdellah Al Ghamdi, a political opponent of the regime, who had taken refuge in the United Kingdom.

Under the promise of releasing his brother and mother, Sultan Al Ghamdi was forced to declare that his entire family disapproved of Abdellah and had no connection with him.

Although the video recording of his statements was published by the intelligence services on social media (Facebook and Twitter), the authorities refused to release the mother and her other son. 

A few days after the victims' arrest in Jeddah, a Mabahith agent called Aida Al Ghamdi's daughter and threatened that if even one other family member remained in contact with Abdellah or responded to his calls, her mother and brother would be sentenced to death and executed.

After their arrest, Aida and Adel Al Ghamdi were held incommunicado in an unknown location for three months. Their family, who did not know their whereabouts, approached various authorities, including the Ministry of the Interior, but all denied their detention, so the two victims were placed in a situation of enforced disappearance during this period.

After three months, Aida Al Ghamdi was allowed to make a brief phone call to her family to inform them that she was in Dhahban prison in Jeddah. 

During one of their rare visits to Dhaban prison, the family was told that both victims had been tortured in front of each other.

Both were severely beaten, punched and kicked, including in the face.

From the first months of detention in Dhahban, the victims' family tried to appoint several lawyers for them but all refused, arguing the political nature of the case and expressing their fear of reprisals.

After thirteen months in Dhahban prison, they were transferred to Dammam prison where they were finally brought before a judicial authority on charges of having communicated by telephone with Mr. Abdellah Al Ghamdi and confronted with their communications which had been recorded. Aida Al Ghamdi was accused of having received on several occasions sums of money sent by her son as material aid, which she did not deny. 

As soon as they were transferred to Dammam prison, Aida Al Ghamdi's husband tried to find a lawyer for a possible trial. The lawyer chosen by the family then tried to consult the file of his clients and to visit them in prison, but because of the refusal and threats of reprisals from the Mabahihs' services, he was forced to withdraw from the case. 

It was only during a visit to Dammam prison that the family of the two victims learned that a closed trial had taken place without a lawyer and that Aida Al Ghamdi had been sentenced to 14 years in prison and her son Adel Al Ghamdi to 5 years in prison.

The family members were not able to obtain further information about the judicial process and the conditions in which the trial took place.

On behalf of the victims' family, Alkarama submitted their situation to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. 

A complaint based on the serious violations of the two victims' rights to a fair trial

The mother and son were initially arrested without a warrant and held incommunicado for three months following their arrest.

The authorities intentionally removed them from the protection of the law by subjecting them to enforced disappearance and denying them access to the outside world.

Both victims were arrested and transferred to Dammam without ever being presented to a judicial authority for more than a year. 

The arrest of Aida Al Ghamdi and her son and the torture they were subjected to constitute reprisals against the family of Mr. Abdellah Al Ghamdi because of his peaceful political engagement and his denunciation of the violations of civil and political rights of Saudi citizens. The inhumane and degrading treatment of his mother and brother is aimed at nothing more than silencing him.

Furthermore, Alkarama has demonstrated in this case that the flagrant and total disregard for international fair trial standards is so serious that the current detention of the two victims is totally arbitrary.

For all these reasons, Alkarama has addressed the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and invited it to recognize the arbitrary nature of their deprivation of liberty and to urge Saudi Arabia to release Aida Al-Ghamdi and her son, Adel Al-Ghamdi.