Two years since the mass arrest of more than a dozen writers and activists, the individuals have been temporarily released but remain facing trial on charges relating to the peaceful expression of their opinions.
Between 4 and 9 April 2019, the Saudi authorities arrested over 13 bloggers, writers and family members of women human rights defenders. These individuals include Salah al-Haidar, son of women’s rights activist Aziza al-Yousef, writer and physician Bader al-Ibrahim, writers Mohammed al-Sadiq, Thumar al-Marzouqi, Abdullah al-Duhailan, Nayef al-Hindas, Ali al-Saffar, Redha al-Boori and Khadija al-Harbi, novelist Moqbel al-Saqqar, activists Fahad Abalkhail and Ayman al-Drees and lawyer Abdullah al-Shehri. Salah al-Haidar and Bader al-Ibrahim are both dual US-Saudi citizens.
All of those targeted were activists, writers or bloggers who had previously engaged in public discourse on reform. Their arrests appeared to be linked to their support for or connection with the women activists and pro-Palestinian advocacy, and illustrated yet again the Saudi authorities’ brazen disregard for the fundamental right to freedom of expression and opinion.
After being held without charge for more than a year, and most of them being interrogated about their cultural activities, they were finally brought before the Specialised Criminal Court on 30 September 2020, with a further session held on 21 December. Between February and March 2021 they were released on bail as a result of international pressure, but continue to face trial, with their latest session held on 8 March 2021. The date of their next trial session is unknown.
ALQST believes that the individuals connected to the April arrests were solely arrested for making use of their fundamental right to freedom of expression. Hence, ALQST calls once again for the Saudi authorities to drop all charges against them, as well as for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained for the peaceful expression of their opinions or for acting to promote human rights.