Publication date: 21/04/2022

ALQST has just learned that the veteran human rights activist Essa al-Nukhaifi has been on hunger strike in Al-Ha’ir Prison since 17 April 2022. He is 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.

Prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia often resort to hunger strikes, in groups or individually, to protest against harassment and intimidation or to demand their rights and seek improvements in conditions. Al-Nukhaifi himself has done so before; in March 2021, for example, he went on hunger strike with 30 other prisoners of conscience in protest over their treatment, including being held on the same wing as psychiatric detainees, some of whom had acted violently toward them. 

The harassment of prisoners of conscience appears to be a means by which the Saudi authorities take revenge on them. For example, Mohammed al-Qahtani, a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) and a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award for human rights, has been denied access to books as well as medication that he needs, such as eye drops and vitamins, resulting in progressive dryness of his eyes. Al-Qahtani also suffers from a skin complaint that has got much worse as a result of the prison administration’s negligence and failure to get it treated.

Al-Nukhaifi was arrested in December 2016 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. He has been imprisoned previously for his activism, and was sentenced in February 2018 to six years in prison followed by a further six-year travel ban.

ALQST urges the Al-Ha’ir Prison administration to stop harassing prisoners, and to let Essa al-Nukhaifi complete all the procedures needed for renewal of his ID card so that his family can receive his salary. ALQST also calls for the release of al-Nukhaifi and all other prisoners of conscience, and for the charges against them to be unconditionally dropped.

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