SHAFAQNA – ESOHR (European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights) would like to express their deep concern regarding the sudden transfer of youngest activist on death row Abdullah Al-Zaher’s, to Aseer prison which located in the southern region of Saudi Arabia where he is being held incommunicado. This secret transfer is particularly concerning for several reasons:
Singled out: Abdullah is one of 6 other youth sentenced to death in connection with participating in demonstrations. On the 5th October, four of these youths (Ali Al-Nimr, Abdullah Al-Zaher, Dawud Al-Marhoon and Mohammed Al-Suwaimil) were transferred from their various places of detention and all gathered to Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh, where they are all being held in solitary confinement (whilst two others Ali AlRebh and Mohammed AlShioukh were separately transferred to Al-Ha’r prison on 27th September 2015). However,on the 13th November 2015, Abdullah was transferred to Aseer prison. It is not clear why he has been singled out.
Secret transfers, incommunicado and no family visits:Abdullah’s family were not informed or given any explanation for the sudden transfer and this transfer was undertaken in secret. The family have not seen their son for over two months. The last visit was on the 24th September 2015, during a brief 10 minute Eid visit at the GDI prison in Dammam (where he was previously being detained). Due to the transfer from Al-Ha’ir and then more recently to Aseer prison, all regular scheduled visit has been cancelled, and the family have not had any access to their son since the visit on Eid. This has been highly distressing to the family. Our fears continue to be compounded as out of all the youth on death row, there has also been no weekly telephone contact with Abdullah for three weeks, as the only family call after the Aseer transfer was on Sunday 29th November, where Abdullah had difficulty answering any questions about the transfer from his family, as it was likely the call was monitored.
Geographical location: Aseer prison is located in the Southern region of Saudi Arabia and is extremely distant from Abdullah’s hometown of Qatifin the Eastern province of the country (approximately 1550km away). Such vase distant from the family home will make any family visit incredibly difficult. Furthermore, the Aseer region is considered a danger zone, as it is close to the Yemeni border where there is currently a war underway, approximately only 190km away from an active warzone.
Reports of a mass execution: Recent reports in Saudi media of a mass execution, report that a mass executions will take place on a single day, across five (or nine according to other reports) regions within Saudi Arabia. This compounds our fears that Abdullah may have been transferred to the Aseer region as his execution is scheduled there.
Abdullah Al-Zaher, was a young protestor who was arrested as a minor (age 15) for his participation in pro-democracy protests during in Saudi Arabia during 2011. After a length detention and deeply flawed trial, he was sentenced to death by the Specialized criminal court (SCC) on the 21st October 2014. In October 2015, both his appeals and high court endorsed this sentence, and young Abdullah is currently at imminent risk of execution.
In their last Universal periodic review, Saudi Arabia fully accepted the recommendation to further efforts to increase the transparency and openness of legal proceedings contemplating death sentences, however Abdullah’s case exemplifies that a lack of transparency surrounding death penalty cases continues to be an area of deep concern. Furthermore, bearing in mind young Abdullah was a minor at the time of arrest and that International law prohibits the use of the death penalty against anyone under the age of 18, we urge Saudi Arabia to grant family immediate access to Abdullah and for his immediate release.