Canada urged to investigate Saudi asylum seeker's possible return to the kingdom

Canada urged to investigate Saudi asylum seeker's possible return to the kingdom
Friends of Ahmed Alharby are worried the former regime critic was forced to return to Saudi Arabia.
3 min read
24 February, 2021
A new Twitter account under Alharby's name espouses pro-Saudi sentiments [Twitter]
Canadian authorities must investigate the mysterious return of a Saudi asylum seeker, friends have urged.

Ahmed Alharby, 24, disappeared earlier this month less than two years after claiming asylum in Canada, reports The Toronto Star.

Alharby, who was granted asylum by Canadian authorities, is thought to have returned to Saudi Arabia.

A new Twitter account set up under his name lists his location as "Saudi Arabia". 

The account's header image is a photograph of Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's crown prince and de-facto ruler.

Campaigners worry that the new account is a sign that Alharby returned to Saudi Arabia against his will.

The Twitter account posted an image of a smiling Alharby last week, with a caption claiming he was "grateful" to be back home.

Alharby's account has since posted several pro-Saudi messages, in marked contrast from previous posts on an old account that drew attention to the plight of detained activists.

Friends are skeptical of who is running the account.

They say that during their last conversations with Alharby, he said he had undergone an interrogation in the Saudi embassy in Ottawa and needed help.

Saudi authorities had questioned Alharby about his friends and activities in Canada, friends told The Toronto Star.

For many, Alharby's embassy visit will be a reminder of the brutal killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate more than two-years-ago.

Friends say Alharby was given travel documents to fly back to Saudi Arabia during his January visit to the embassy.

Someone from the Saudi embassy accompanied him to the airport but Alharby had second thoughts before his flight departed, his friends told The Toronto Star.

An image shared by the new Twitter account under Alharby's name dates his return to Saudi Arabia on 7 February. The image was not shared until 17 February.

Among Alharby's friends who spoke to the Canadian daily is Omar Abdulaziz, a prominent Saudi dissident who has accused the kingdom of spying on him.

Abdulaziz filed a lawsuit against Israeli firm NSO Group in 2018 alleging that spyware sold by the company to Riyadh was used to hack his phone and monitor his conversations with Khashoggi.

"Why did he call me? He called others to say that, 'I'm worried. Help me'," Abdulaziz said this week. "If he had said, 'Guys, no, no, I'm going there voluntarily, I'll go back home, I'm fed up, I give up, and that's it. Finito.' Yes, we would understand, but the last few days weren't usual."

Some critics have questioned possible links to the Saudi government citing his closeness to dissidents.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and other Canadian authorities have been alerted about the case but are reluctant to comment.

"We are aware of these allegations," Tim Warmington, a Public Safety Canada spokesperson, told The Toronto Star.

"While we cannot comment on individual cases, Canadians and all individuals living or visiting in Canada, regardless of their nationality, should feel safe and free from criminal activity. Anyone who believes a crime is or has been committed against them or is concerned for the well-being of an individual should report it to their local police immediately."

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