Saudi Prison Guards Unveil Horrific Records of Torturing Political Activists

Published July 11th, 2021 - 08:28 GMT
Loujain Alhathloul
Loujain Alhathloul was released in February 2021, years after reporting various forms of torture by officials. (Twitter: @shihan_sa)

A new report by Human Rights Watch has cited a number of text messages allegedly sent by Saudi prison guards who say they witnessed brutal torture against political detainees in 2018.

In the report, HRW details how text messages forwarded to its officers have revealed inhumane treatment by Saudi interrogators against high-profile detainees who were imprisoned in Saudi Arabia during 2018, as the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman often described as the de facto ruler of the country took control of Saudi.

Prison guards who have not disclosed their names in fear of being persecuted talked about Saudi officials using electric shocks, violent beating, and sexual harassment. 

According to their testimonies, well-known female activists were often tortured for hours. One text message explained that guards were terrified when an activist they did not name lost consciousness, as they feared that she had died. Another text recalled officials "mocking an activist" for being "liberated," which for them meant that "she wouldn't mind being sexually molested by men."

In May 2019, Alia Al-Hathloul, the Brussels-based sister of Loujain Al-Hathloul had told France24 that her sister had reported being tortured and sexually harassed while in prison. Loujain had named Mohammad Bin Salman's former prominent aid Saud Al-Qahtani as taking part in torturing her in person.

Consequently, international human rights organizations called on Saudi Arabia to investigate Loujain's claims and to release her and other women activists. However, the court rejected Loujain's claims and the official narrative continued to refer to earlier reports by Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution, in which they insisted that "no evidence of such violations was found in Saudi prisons."

While Loujain Al-Hathloul was released from prison last February, many political activists remain detained in Saudi jails. International organizations including HRW are still calling on Saudi authorities to release activists who have been arrested over political statements.

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