Personal information

  • Sex: Male
  • Date of birth: 17 June 1979
  • Area of activity: Human rights activist
  • Place of residence: Jeddah

Waleed Abu al-Khair is a prominent human rights defender and founder of the NGO Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. He provided legal representation for human rights activists Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi and members of the now banned Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), and in 2011 was named by Forbes Middle East as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Arabs on Twitter”. In 2014 he became the first human rights activist to be tried and sentenced under the Saudi Counter-Terrorism Law, and he has continued his activism in jail by staging hunger strikes. Abu al-Khair has won several international awards for his work.

Arrest and jail information

  • Prison: Dhahban Central Prison, Jeddah
  • Date of arrest: 15 April 2014
  • Manner of arrest: During the fifth session of his trial at the Specialised Criminal Court the judge ordered him arrested pending the outcome of the case; Abu al-Khair was placed in Al-Ha’ir Prison

Trial information

  • Charges: Contempt of court; criticising the system of absolute monarchy and calling for a constitutional monarchy; inciting public opinion; communicating with foreign entities; using the media to smear the country’s reputation
  • Court: Specialised Criminal Court (SCC)
  • Verdict: 15-year prison term, 15-year travel ban and a fine of 200,000 Saudi riyals


  • Torture and ill-treatment

Violation details

During his detention, Abu al-Khair has carried out several hunger strikes to protest his prison conditions. Since his arrest he has been subjected to ongoing ill-treatment, including solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and denial of food and adequate medical care.


2012 : Olof Palme Prize ; 2015 : Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize; 2016 : Law Society of Upper Canada Human Rights Award; 2018 : Right Livelihood Award (jointly with Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid); 2018: PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage; 2019 : American Bar Association award 2020: Geuzenpenning award from Amnesty - Netherlands ( jointly with Mohammed al-Qahtani, Abdullah al-hamdi and Mohammed al-Bajadi) 2024 : Anna Dahlbäck's memorial fund award


  • 12 March 2024 - The Saudi authorities refused a hospital transfer for Abu al-Khair, depriving him of medical care that he needs.
  • January 2024 - He is subjected to beatings from another inmate in Dhahban Prison.
  • October 2022 - The authorities prevented him from taking medication and visiting hospital.
  • 6 February 2020 - He announced that he ended his own hunger strike, after nearly two months, after he was transferred from high security detention back to his previous prison accommodation. 
  • 11 December 2019 - He was placed in high security prison again and he went in hunger strike for the second time to protest against ill treatment. 
  • 29 November 2019 - He started a hunger strike as an objection to ill treatment and removal from Dhabhan prison to high security  prison on the 26 November, in which he was subjected to punishments by prolonged sun exposure, denied  to basic  furniture such as mattress, heater/air-conditioner and all his books were seized. After nearly two weeks Waleed ended his hunger strike. 
  • 12 January 2015 - An appeal court upheld the sentence and ruled that Abu al-Khair would have to serve the full 15 years because he refused to apologise for his alleged offences.
  • 6 July 2014 - He was sentenced to a 15-year prison term, a 15-year travel ban, a fine of 200,000 Saudi riyals ($53,333 USD), and the closure of all websites linked to him. Among the charges brought against him were “inciting public opinion against the State and its people”; “inciting international organisations against Saudi Arabia with the intent of ruining its reputation”; and “setting up and supervising an unlicensed association”.
  • 15 April 2014 - Arrested after refusing to sign an agreement stating that he would give up his human rights activism.

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