Saudi Arabia: Internet activist Naimah Al-Matrod released from prison in poor health

15.02.22

Internet activist Naimah Al-Matrod was released from prison in Saudi Arabia in poor health last week. Her health has deteriorated after spending six years in a prison in Al-Dammam, where she faced ill-treatment. Like other human rights defenders released from prison, she is under many restrictions.

Al-Matrod was released on 11 February 2022 after serving her sentence for participating in demonstrations and creating social media accounts calling for the release of prisoners. On 22 November 2021, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) documented the deterioration of her health in prison, which the appeal described as "unstable."

On 10 November 2017, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh sentenced Al-Matrod to six years in prison and a ban on traveling for another six years after her sentence was served. She was charged in connection with her peaceful online activities.

Like other prominent women human rights defenders Samar Badawi, Nassima Al-Sadah, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and human rights defender Essam Koshak, who were released in 2021, Al-Matrod is not allowed to express her views freely on social media, or to speak with the media. She will also be prevented from getting a job in the civil service, which is prohibited to anyone who has been in prison for more than a year, or any job that requires a security check.

Human rights defenders are not truly free after being released from prison, as they can’t live or work freely in Saudi Arabia, and they are prevented from traveling abroad to start a new life in which they enjoy their full rights, and build a new future.

Recommendations:

GCHR calls upon the Saudi authorities to:

  1. End the practise of imposing travel bans on human rights defenders who have completed their prison sentences, and lift impediments to finding employment;
  2. Immediately and unconditionally release all detained human rights defenders, including all journalists and online activists, as well as any citizens who express themselves in public, and drop all charges against them;
  3.  public freedoms including the right to freedom of expression both online and offline; and
  4. Ensure, in all circumstances, that all human rights defenders and Internet activists in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of reprisals and without restrictions, including judicial harassment.