By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – On Wednesday, 11 April, Saudi Arabian authorities refused to acknowledge Mohammed al-Bajadi, a well-known human rights advocate who lived in detention for the past year, has engaged in a hunger strike since 11 March. The Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (“ACPRA”) reported their founder’s health is in jeopardy since he stopped eating food last month. ACPRA added Mr. Bajadi, 34, fainted four times after he refrained from drinking water on Saturday. For four months of his arbitrary detention, Mr. Bajadi remained in solitary confinement.
Mansour al-Turki, spokesperson for the Interior Minister, contradicts the ACPRA’s report. He asserts Mr. Bajadi “did not go on hunger strike d he is in good health, consuming food on a regular basis and in the company of other inmates.”
On 21 March 2011, domestic intelligence agents arrested Mr. Bajadi in the Qassim province after demonstrating with family members of detainees outside the interior ministry in Riyadh, the country’s capital. The Saudis advocated for the authorities to free thousands of people detained for suspiciously engaging in “military activity” and held without a trial or proper charges. Along with Mr. Bajadi, the activists accuse their government of physically and mentally torturing over 30,000 political prisoners held without legitimate charges or a fair trial.
The authorities also charged Mr. Bajadi with supporting pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, possessing banned books, initiating demonstrations, and joining an unlicensed association. ACPRA members reported to Human Rights Watch that the government denied their organization a license and that Mr. Bajadi obtained the books from the 2011 international book fair in Riyadh.
During Mr. Bajadi’s trial at the Specialized Criminal Court, a state tribunal hearing terrorism cases, the judges did not allow his lawyers to attend the proceedings. After Mr. Bajadi refused to recognize the court, the judges suspended his trial. The ACPRA called for Mr. Bajadi to have a “fair public trial” along with his “immediate release”.
ACPRA published a letter smuggled out of prison Mr. Bajadi wrote on 27 March. He wrote, “I inform you that I am still continuing with my hunger strike.” He adds the prison hospital force-fed him on Tuesday, 20 March in the presence of five soldiers and the ward offices. He reported he also lost 22 pounds and the doctors signaled he had a dangerously low blood sugar level.
The authorities denied several activists who sought to visit Mr. Bajadi on 2 April.
ACPRA blames the interior ministry for Mr. Bajadi condition. The organization stated, “The interior ministry…carries full responsibility over the deteriorating health condition of the prominent rights activist and member of the association, Mohammed bin Saleh al-Bajadi.”
For further information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Saudi Activist On Hunger Strike ‘In Danger’ – 11 Apr 2012
BBC – Saudi Arabia Denies Activist On Hunger Strike – 11 Apr 2012
The Chicago Tribune – Update 1 – Saudi Arabia Denies Activist On Hunger Strike – 11 Apr 2012
Press TV – Saudi Rights Activists Concerned Over Health Of Al Bajadi – 10 Apr 2012