Saudi authorities have cut contact between detainees and their families, amid feared coronavirus outbreak

Saudi authorities have cut contact between detainees and their families, amid feared coronavirus outbreak
3 min read
26 August, 2020
Saudi authorities are believed to have cut contact between the kingdom's prominent dissidents and their families.
Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was arrested in 2018 [Getty]
High-profile detainees in Saudi Arabia, including Louthain Al-Hathloul, have not had contact with their families in months, media have reported. 

Saudi authorities are believed to have cut contact between some of the kingdom's most well-known dissidents and activists and their families abroad, Bloomberg revealed on Wednesday.

Women's rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul hasn't been in contact with her family since 9 June, her sister told the news outlet. Al-Hathloul has been behind bars for two years, after protesting the male guardianship system and a ban on women drivers. 

All communication from the outside world has been cut to imprisoned Saudi Princess Basmah bint Saud since April, according to people close to the matter. 

Princess Basmah, who is a daughter of the late King Saud, was detained with her daughter earlier this year in what observers say is part of a campaign of repression by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de-facto ruler.

Prominent Saudi cleric Salman al-Awdah was last in contact with his family on 12 May, his son said. 

Whereas previously, the detained dissidents were able to make regular - sometimes even weekly - calls to their family, many have not been heard from in months. 

"I'm worried to the degree that I really am numb at this point," Awdah's son, Abdullah Alaoudh, told Bloomberg.

He said many others are in a similar situation. "They're worried sick about their families, and whether there have been any coronavirus cases, and why the government is just keeping them in the dark."

The May call between cleric Al-Awdah and his family was recorded and shared on social media.

It was the first recording of the reformist sheikh released since September 2017, when he and 20 others - including writers and journalists - were arrested as part of a crackdown on suspected dissent in the ultra-conservative kingdom. 

In other news, Saudi authorities are reportedly carrying out a new string of arrests against relatives of former intelligence officer Saad al-Jabri, believed to be in possession of classified documents that could compromise the kingdom's rulers.

Al-Jabri, who is currently exiled in Canada, worked at the Saudi interior ministry for nearly four decades, during which he was promoted to the rank of major general – giving him access to important state documents. 
The former official was also a trusted advisor to the previous Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN), who was forced by Mohammed bin Salman to step down as heir to the throne in 2017. 
In recent months, two of Al-Jabri's children, 21-year old Omar and 20-year old Sarah, are believed to have been detained in a bid to force his return to the kingdom from exile in Canada.

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