Rights defender dies in Saudi prisons due to medical negligence

A leading Saudi human rights defender, Abdullah al-Hamid, has died after suffering a stroke earlier this month, Human Rights Watch reported.

Saudi human rights activists say that imprisoned Abdullah al-Hamid, 69, did not receive adequate medical care prior to his death, and his condition had deteriorated over the course of several months.

Al-Hamid, 69, spent the last seven years of his life in prison following his conviction in March 2013 on charges relating to his peaceful political and human rights activism.

Al-Hamid was a professor, political reformist, and a co-founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). He advocated for human rights for over 25 years, and Saudi authorities had detained him more than six times since 1993.

Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said: “We have lost one of the leading lights of Saudi Arabia’s human rights movement, but his message and the many activists he inspired will live on and continue pushing for reform.”

“It is unconscionable that Abdullah al-Hamid was forced to spend his final years in prison merely for criticizing Saudi Arabia’s rampant human rights abuses.”

In 2009, al-Hamid and other academics and rights activists co-founded ACPRA in response to the worsening human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. The group called for Saudi Arabia’s government to apply the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recommended a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament.

ACPRA also helped many families sue the Interior Ministry for breaches of Saudi law in arbitrary detention cases.

In April 2012, he and other activists called for the resignation of the then-Interior Minister Prince Nayef due to the number of detainees who allegedly suffered ill-treatment during his tenure.

The authorities initiated criminal proceedings against him and his colleague Mohammed al-Qahtani on charges that included “sowing discord and disturbing public order” as well as criticizing the country’s religious leaders and judicial system.

On March 9, 2013, the Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced al-Hamid to five years in prison and added an additional six years from a previous sentence that the late King Abdullah had commuted in a conditional royal pardon in 2006.

According to ALQST, al-Hamid’s health condition had deteriorated in recent months, and authorities delayed a heart operation a doctor told al-Hamid he needed in early 2020. ALQST said that authorities took steps to prevent al-Hamid from discussing his health condition with his family. He suffered a stroke on April 9 and remained hospitalized in a coma until his death on April 24.

Activists circulated on Friday a video clip on social media of the late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, talking about the human rights activist Abdullah Al-Hamid, who died in Saudi prisons.

In the video clip taken from a previous television interview, Khashoggi talked about the emergence of a movement calling for constitutional monarchy in Saudi Arabia, even before the start of the Arab Spring wave in early 2011.

Khashoggi, who was assassinated by the Saudi authorities inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018, described Abdullah Al-Hamid as a “constitutional creator,” calling on all Saudi citizens to visit Al-Hamid’s page to witness his creativity.

Saudi accounts confirmed on Friday morning the death of the well-known detained academic, Abdullah Al-Hamid, days after the deterioration of his health condition.

Khashoggi said in the TV interview that “Al-Hamid is from the pure Saudi Salafi soil. He is a cultured and educated person, with a firm, yet not strict, Islamic background.”

Al-Hamid is the founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association and one of the most prominent advocates of reform in the kingdom. The authorities arrested him in March 2013 and sentenced him to 11 years in prison, without explaining the reason for the sentence, according to the Saudi ALQST Human Rights Organization.