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AI: Fears for Health of Imprisoned Human Rights Activist Suffering Covid-19 in Saudi Arabia

AI: Fears for Health of Imprisoned Human Rights Activist Suffering Covid-19 in Saudi Arabia
folder_openMiddle East... access_time 28 days ago
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By Staff, Agencies 

Fears are growing for the health and wellbeing of imprisoned Saudi human rights activist Mohammed Al-Qahtani, who has been held incommunicado after testing positive for Covid-19 in Al Ha’ir prison.

Mohammed al-Qahtani, co-founder of the now disbanded Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association [ACPRA], formerly one of Saudi Arabia’s few independent human rights organizations, is serving a 10-year prison sentence solely for his peaceful activism. 

His wife told Amnesty International that his family have had no contact with him since he tested positive for Covid-19 10 days ago.  

“By denying Mohammed Al-Qahtani contact with his family, they are cruelly blocking his contact with the outside world at a time when communicating with them to reassure them of his health and wellbeing is even more crucial,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

She further underscored: “Prison authorities told Mohammed’s wife that he has been placed in isolation, but this does not justify cutting him off from the outside world.  Covid-19 measures restricting the rights of prisoners must be strictly necessary, time-limited and proportionate – they must not result in de facto solitary confinement or lead to other human rights violations.”

“Mohammed Al-Qahtani is being unjustly punished for his peaceful activism and should not even be in prison. The Saudi authorities must release him immediately and unconditionally. Pending his release, they must ensure he is allowed to contact his family without any delay and is given adequate medical attention,” Maalouf clarified.

Prisoners in Saudi Arabia are at heightened risk of Covid-19 due to overcrowding, poor sanitation and lack of adequate medical attention inside several prisons around the country. At Al Ha’ir prison officials have however started to collect information about which prisoners would like to receive a vaccination. 

Fears for Mohammed Al-Qahtani’s safety intensified following reports from other prisoners’ family members that the number of Covid-19 cases are rapidly increasing in the wing of the prison where he is being held. Prison authorities have made no official announcements about the extent of the spread of Covid-19 inside Al Ha’ir prison.

In April 2020, Dr Abdullah al-Hamid, another founding member of ACPRA who was arrested alongside Mohammed Al-Qahtani, died in the same prison after being denied adequate medical care. He had been told by a doctor that he needed to undergo heart surgery. He also reported that prison authorities said they would cut off his contact with his family if he informed them of his condition.

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