Rights groups urge Riyadh to free prominent Yemeni writer

Rights groups urge Riyadh to free prominent Yemeni writer
Marwan al-Muraisy, a popular Yemeni writer with more than 100,000 Twitter followers, has been detained by Saudi authorities since June, his family say.
3 min read
26 September, 2018

A popular Yemeni writer has been held incommunicado by Saudi authorities for months, human rights groups said on Wednesday, who called for his immediate release.  

Marwan al-Muraisy, a social media activist with more than 100,000 Twitter followers, was arrested at his home in Riyadh on 1 June, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and other watchdogs said in a joint statement.

Muraisy's arrest may have been "prompted by a few critical tweets and his links to activists", they said, adding that "his family has not seen him or heard from him since he was arrested".

In a separate statement released on Tuesday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Muraisy's recent tweets did not appear "overly political or likely to lead to an arrest".

Riyadh also leads a coalition that intervened in support of Yemeni government forces fighting Houthi rebels in 2015.

The coalition's controversial military intervention in Yemen has resulted in the killing of more than 10,000 people and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

Saudi Arabia, which ranks 169th out of 180 on an Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, has attempted to promote a modernisation campaign since the 2017 appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Salman as heir to the throne. 

But the ultra-conservative kingdom, which won plaudits in media last June when it finally lifted a ban on women driving, has drawn heavy criticism for its treatment of dissent.

At least 11 journalists are currently detained in Saudi Arabia, according to the CPJ and RSF.

In recent months, Saudi authorities have detained several women's rights and opposition activists. 

Some of those arrested had called for an end to Saudi Arabia's notorious guardianship system, which requires women to secure permission from a male relative or spouse to travel, study or get a job. 

Earlier this week, three jailed Saudi human rights activists were awarded "the alternative Nobel prize", marking the first time the Right Livelihood Award goes to Laureates from Saudi Arabia.

Civil and human rights defenders Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani and Waleed Abu al-Khair won a joint cash award of one million kronor (97,000 euros, $114,000).

They were selected for their "courageous efforts" to reform the totalitarian regime in Saudi Arabia.

"The three laureates have challenged this authoritarian system through peaceful methods, calling for universal human rights, and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy," the jury said.

"As a consequence of their courageous struggle for a more pluralistic and democratic society, the three men have been sentenced to between 10 and 15 years imprisonment and all are currently in jail," it said.