Responding to the arrest over the weekend of two prominent Saudi Arabian human rights defenders Abdulaziz al-Shubaily and Issa al-Hamid, both founding members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), Samah Hadid, Director of campaigns for Amnesty International in the Middle-East said:
“This is a dark time for freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia. These two arrests have confirmed our fears that the new leadership under Mohamed bin Salman is determined to crush the Kingdom’s human rights movement. Instead of engaging with activists over human rights reforms they are going after them one by one.
“Saudi Arabia’s embattled human rights community has already suffered heavily at the hands of the authorities, and now with these latest arrests almost all the country’s most prominent human rights defenders are now in prison on bogus terrorism-related charges. These peaceful activists should be applauded for their courage in standing up for human rights, not rounded up and locked up.”
“Issa al-Hamid and Abdulaziz al-Shubaily are prisoners of conscience, the Saudi Arabian authorities must release them immediately and unconditionally.”
The arrests come amidst an intensified crackdown over the past week with more than 20 prominent religious figures, writers, journalists, academics and activists detained in a wave of arrests targeting the last vestiges of freedom of expression in the Kingdom.
ACPRA is an independent human rights NGO that was set up in October 2009 and was shut down in 2013. It has long been a thorn in the side of the Saudi Arabian authorities as one of the only local organizations that have reported on human rights violations and helped families of detainees held without charge to bring cases against the Ministry of Interior.