Personal information

  • Sex: Male
  • Date of birth: 1971
  • Area of activity: Human rights activist
  • Place of residence: Jazan

Essa al-Nukheifi is a human rights campaigner from Jazan Province on Saudi Arabia’s southern border with Yemen. He was first arrested and jailed in 2012 for publicising the protests of residents displaced from the border zone by the authorities without compensation. Al-Nukheifi was later active in exposing government abuses and corruption, for which he lost his job and suffered much harassment. He once memorably denounced the ruling Al Saud family and the Saudi police as being un-Islamic.

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Arrest and jail information

  • Prison: Al-Ha’ir Prison, Riyadh
  • Date of arrest: December 2016

Trial information

  • Charges: Seeking to destabilise the social fabric and national cohesion; communicating with and receiving money from foreign groups considered to be enemies of the state; using a personal cell phone and the internet to store and transfer information that is harmful to the public order and saying that the ruling family and Saudi police were not at all Islamic
  • Court: Specialised Criminal Court (SCC)
  • Verdict: Six years in prison followed by a further six-year travel ban
  • Date of verdict: 28 February 2018


  • Arbitrary arrest/ detention ,
  • Denied contact with family ,
  • Denied access to a lawyer ,
  • Torture and ill-treatment ,
  • Observers denied access to court hearings

Violation details

He suffered various forms of harassment by the Saudi authorities on many occasions.


  • 15 October 2022 - He started a hunger strike, protesting against not being released from jail despite his sentence expiring the previous week. 
  • 19 May 2022 - He ended his latest hunger strike after the authorities responded to his request to leave prison in order to complete banking transactions.
  • 15 May 2022 - He began a hunger strike to leave prison in order to complete banking transactions.
  • 30 April 2022 - He ended his hunger strike, after the authorities said they will let him out of prison to complete the banking transactions.
  • 17 April 2022 - He begun a hunger strike in Al-Ha’ir Prison, protesting the prison administration’s vindictive delays over letting him out to complete some banking transactions in relation to his salary and ID card renewal. Al-Nukhaifi’s family have failed to receive his salary for two months because his ID card has expired, so this deliberate foot-dragging is causing his wife and children unnecessary hardship.
  • 11 August 2021 - He began a hunger strike for reasons that are not known.   
  • 11 March 2021 - He was transferred to hospital suffering from low blood sugar as a result of the hunger strike. 
  • 6-14 March 2021 - He went on hunger strike, along with 30 prisoners of conscience, in protest against harassment and ill-treatment by prison officials at Al-Ha’ir in Riyadh, including being held on the same wing as psychiatric detainees.  
  • 08 April 2019 - He requested to be transferred to Jizan prison in order to be closer to his 80-year-old mother, who struggles to visit him at Makkah General Prison, which is over 700 km away from their usual residence.
  • 2019 - The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention qualified al-Nukheifi’s detention as arbitrary on the grounds of its lacking a legal basis and being imposed on him for exercising his fundamental rights to freedom of opinion and expression.
  • 07 April 2018 - In a decision that cannot be further appealed, the Court of Appeal confirmed his sentence.
  • 28 February 2018 - He was sentenced in to six years in prison followed by a further six-year travel and social media ban.  
  • 21 August 2017 - His trial was transferred to Judge Abdulaziz Al Jaber, and the first hearing was held in his absence, with Judge Khaled Al-Jasser attending instead.
  • 17 August 2017 - He was transferred from Makkah Main Prison to Al Malaz Prison in Riyadh to be tried before the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC).
  • December 2016 - Al-Nukhaifi was re-arrested after having tried to draw attention to financial corruption in organisations where he used to work, and having defended victims of the authorities’ abuses. As a result, he suffered much harassment and was eventually suspended from his job and banned from taking up any other government position. 
  • 2012 - Al-Nukheifi was arrested for his activism, and served a three-year prison sentence ending in April 2016.

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