ALQST has learned through private channels that the widely called-for inquiry into the 12 October killing of Musa al-Qarni in a prison cell has not yet concluded or reported any findings. Witnesses at the time stated that al-Qarni was beaten around the head and face with a sharp object, causing facial injuries and fatal fractures to his skull.
ALQST’s sources also say that all the evidence suggests more than nine hours passed after the crime occurred before the Dhahban prison administration took any action or notified the Public Prosecution. The killer informed the prison administration, or the guard on duty, at 2 a.m. that there was a dead body in the cell, but no response was made until 11 a.m.
Al-Qarni, born in 1954, was a dissident academic and advocate for political and social reform. He was one of a group known as “the Jeddah Reformers” who were arrested in February 2007 and accused of founding a secret organisation with the aim of spreading anarchy and seizing power with foreign help. Al-Qarni was sentenced in November 2011 to 20 years in prison to be followed by a 20-year travel ban.
ALQST notes that al-Qarni had previously reported receiving death threats in prison. He had already been subjected to beatings and torture while in jail, and, when he suffered a stroke in May 2018, the prison administration gave him the wrong medication before transferring him to a psychiatric hospital with the aim of damaging his intellectual reputation and giving the impression that he was mentally ill.
He wrote many times to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman complaining of his treatment, but never received any reply from the Royal Diwan; and the Public Prosecution, State Security and Saudi Human Rights Commission did not respond to complaints from al-Qarni either.
ALQST calls once again for an urgent international, independent investigation into the circumstances of al-Qarni’s murder, including the Dhahban prison administration’s delay in notifying the Public Prosecution; the possibillity that prison officials were complicit in the crime, and their failure to treat al-Qarni’s earlier complaints seriously; a review of the prison’s security camera records and the taking of witness statements from both prison inmates and staff; and a review of all the complaints al-Qarni had previously filed with the Royal Diwan and other bodies.
Executive Director of ALQST Nabhan Al-Hanshi commented: “We cannot ignore the brutality of this crime or the authorities’ reluctance to report their findings, or rather their closing the investigation without presenting any findings. The authorities are thus complicit in this crime, if not the masterminds behind it. Today we express our grave concern for the safety of other prisoners of conscience whom the authorities may already be intending to expose to the same danger out of a desire for vengeance. The international community must insist that an independent international investigation is carried out.”