Publication date: 31/03/2021

The health of detained cleric Mohammad al-Habib has been deteriorating in Dammam Prison, due to a lack of adequate health care for sciatica and back and head pain that he suffers as a result of torture following his arrest in 2016. 

Al-Habib is currently serving two prison sentences totalling 12 years, on charges linked to his defence of the rights of Saudi Arabia’s minority Shi’a community. He was arrested on 8 July 2016 at the Saudi-Kuwait border and forcibly disappeared for four months. When his family were finally permitted to visit him at the Mabaheth (secret intelligence) prison in Dammam, they noticed that his health had deteriorated as a result of torture and ill-treatment, including being held in solitary confinement.  

Al-Habib was brought before the Specialised Criminal Court on 27 October 2016, and accused of breaking the terms of a 2012 pledge he had signed with regard to the content of his sermons, in which he criticised discrimination against the Shi’a. After being initially acquitted in 2017, al-Habib was sentenced on 4 January 2018 to seven years in prison for “inciting sectarianism and sedition”, based on Royal Decree No. 44. 

A second case was brought against al-Habib on 30 April 2018, on charges linked to his alleged support of protests in the Eastern Province, under Royal Decree No. 44 again, but this time also Article 6 of the repressive Anti-Cybercrime Law. In August 2019 he was sentenced to a further five years imprisonment and a five-year travel ban to follow his release.

Al-Habib has been denied medical treatment by the prison authorities since May 2019, despite requiring medication for nerve pains resulting from the torture he faced earlier in detention. 

In May 2020, United Nations experts sent an urgent appeal to Saudi Arabia expressing serious concern at the judicial harassment and prolonged detention of al-Habib - as well as Shi’a youth Murtaja Qureiris, who was arrested as a teenager for taking part in protests - which may amount to serious human rights violations. 

ALQST calls on the Saudi authorities to fulfil their responsibilities regarding the health needs of Mohammad al-Habib, and to release him immediately and drop the charges against him, along with all other prisoners of conscience.

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