Saudi Arabia Keeps a Secret Prison in Yemen Amid Calls to Release Activists

A well-known Saudi activist and whistle-blower known online as “Mujtahid” has exposed the existence of a secret prison run by Riyadh in Yemen’s largest province, Hadhramout.

Mujtahid made his claim on Twitter yesterday, where he said that the Saudi military has committed serious violations against Yemeni detainees, including torturing many of them to death.

“I received a report from former detainees in a prison run by Saudi forces in Yemen where it is kept secret and what is going on in it,” he said.

He went on to describe that the prison conditions were not even fit for an animal and noted that the Saudi prison is subject neither to Saudi or Yemeni law nor international supervision.


– Hundreds, perhaps thousands of detainees have been in this prison.

– Several of them died under torture and others became disabled.

– Most of the detainees are relatives and acquaintances of a suspect.

– Those who passed the report appeal to human rights organizations, international parliaments, and international courts to compel the Saudi army to accept international monitoring of the prison.

According to the leaked report, hundreds if not thousands of Yemenis have been incarcerated in the prison and tortured. Most are relatives or acquaintances of the main suspects.

Mujtahid called on human rights organizations and the international community to urge the Saudi government to accept international monitoring of the prison.

Saudi Arabia’s coalition partner in the war in Yemen, the UAE, has also previously been accused of running secret prisons in the country with reports of sexual abuse occurring. This was later confirmed by a panel of UN experts on the situation in Yemen.

Yesterday, it was also reported by the Yemen Press Agency that a young man had died under torture while in a detention centre in the southern port city of Aden, operated by the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC).

The detainee, Hussein Marwan Aidroo, was said to be the son of the head of public relations for the Yemeni Petroleum Company. He was reportedly kidnapped 12 days before his death after allegedly taking part in protests demanding water and electricity services.

HRW urges Saudi to release Yemen blogger

In a similar context, Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week called for Saudi Arabia to immediately release a Yemeni blogger who was arrested on 8 April after posting a video on social media.

The detention of Yemeni blogger and human rights activist, Mohamad Al-Bokari is based on his call for equal rights, maintains the human rights group.

A source in contact with Al-Bokari told HRW that he is being held in Al-Malaz prison in Riyadh with no access to legal counsel.

According to a statement made by the media spokesperson for the Riyadh Police Department, Shaker Bin Suleiman Al-Tuwaijri, the reason the 29-year-old was arrested was a video which contained “sexual references” that “violate public order and morals”.

According to HRW, which reviewed the video, Al-Bokari responded to queries from social media users, including one on his position on same-sex relations, to which he answered: “Everyone has rights and should be able to practise them freely, including gay people.”

“A government that arrests someone who merely speaks out on sensitive social issues eliminates the space for dialogue and reform,” said HRW Deputy Middle East Director, Michael Page.

No immediate comment has been issued by the Saudi authorities on the HRW remarks. Al-Bokari reportedly fled his native Yemen in June last year, after an armed group threatened his life.