NEW YORK — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) recently signed a joint letter calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan, a Saudi humanitarian aid worker for the Red Crescent, who was sentenced last month to 20 years of imprisonment, followed by a 20-year travel ban. He was also subjected to three years of enforced disappearance, where he allegedly endured torture and other forms of ill-treatment, including sexual assault. The letter — signed by HRF, Al-Sadhan’s sister, Areej Al-Sadhan, and a coalition of 17 other organizations — also urges government officials, legislators, celebrities, artists, and others to speak out against his sentence and join the call for his release.
The letter condemns Al-Sadhan’s sentencing by Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court as well as its continued misuse of counter-terrorism measures that target human rights activists and peaceful dissidents. Furthermore, the letter calls on Saudi authorities to accept pending requests for country visits by nine United Nations Special Procedures mandate holders to investigate alleged human rights violations being committed in Saudi Arabia’s detention facilities; to end the use of travel bans as punitive acts against individuals for exercising their human rights; and for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms for everyone in Saudi Arabia, including the freedom of expression.
On March 12, 2018, Al-Sadhan was arbitrarily arrested by plainclothes officers in the Red Crescent headquarters in Riyadh without being provided a warrant or justification for arrest. He was targeted as part of a crackdown on peaceful activists, government critics, and online commentators. As mentioned in the letter, the charges against him were in connection with tweets from a parody Twitter account that criticized the Saudi Arabian government and religious establishment. Al-Sadhan’s family was not informed of his arrest or whereabouts for 23 months. Al-Sadhan was forcibly disappeared, arbitrarily detained without charge, denied his right to family visits and legal representation, and reportedly subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
Read more about Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan in this op-ed by his sister, Areej Al-Sadhan.