Saudi Arabia: Egyptian physician arbitrarily arrested and facing trumped-up charges
In January 2020, an Egyptian national, Dr. Sabry Mus’ad Ibrahim Shalaby, was arrested in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia. He is now awaiting the court session to be held on 21 August 2022, during which the verdict in his case will be announced.
Dr. Shalaby is an Egyptian physician who worked for the Saudi Ministry of Health from 2006 until the end of 2019. Ten years into employment, he found out that he was designated a job title at a lower rank than the one contracted, per the ministry’s system. Therefore, he filed a lawsuit before the court in 2017, which continued for two years. Eventually, in 2019, the ruling was in his favour, and ordered the retroactive settlement of his salaries since the contract. The ministry appealed the ruling, and in parallel, the ministry arbitrarily terminated his contract and issued him a final exit visa. As a result, Dr. Shalaby booked a return ticket to Egypt after the date of the appeal hearing.
Two weeks prior to the session, Dr. Shalaby was arrested, on January 28, 2020, by a group of men who identified themselves as members of a security agency affiliated with the General Directorate of Investigations in Tabuk city. His wife (who lived with him) inquired about the reason of arrest, and they answered that it was only to “ask him a few questions and he will be bought back right away.” However, her passport was also confiscated, and was not returned to her until about a week later.
Upon his arrest, all his personal devices, including his laptop, two mobile phones, and 13 memory sticks, in addition to all his medical books, were confiscated. It is worth noting that his belongings contained no political content, whether electronically or among his books, and he does not have any social media accounts or email.
His family tried to inquire about him to no avail. The first telephone contact with the family took place four days after his arrest. He told them that he was held in the General Investigation Prison in Tabuk. Two weeks later, he was transferred to Dhahban Prison in Jeddah.
He was held in solitary confinement for nine months. In October 2020, he was transferred to general incarceration. During the nine months period, Dr. Shalaby went on hunger strike, demanding that he be allowed to communicate with his family in Egypt and be transferred from solitary confinement to no avail. He was transferred to the prison hospital for health reasons.
During close to one year since January 2020, the prisons official at the Egyptian Consulate in Jeddah was contacted by his family almost on a weekly basis without leading to any concrete outcome or any improvement of his poor conditions. This has continued until now, after two and a half years of detention.
The first hearing to bring him before the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh, which is the court dealing with terrorism-related cases, was scheduled for March 2021, when the Public Prosecution presented the indictment and charged him with supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. The trial was postponed until June 2021.
In the June 2021 hearing, the Specialised Criminal Court requested the Public Prosecution to present evidence for the indictment. Dr. Shalaby’s family received the evidence related to the charges embedded in the indictment, which was submitted by the Public Prosecution, through the court during this session.
The court held a third hearing on 21 October 2021, to respond to the indictment and the evidence presented. Indeed, the response was submitted to the court during the hearing, and there were no pleadings or questions from the judge. Dr. Shalaby told the court during this hearing, “I have given detailed responses and produced evidence that refute all the allegations of the Public Prosecution and exonerates me of the charges brought against me.” Dr. Shalaby remained for almost a year without being brought before the court, after he submitted his responses to the indictment.
Prior to his arrest, Dr. Shalaby was suffering from several illnesses, most notably having underwent a delicate spinal surgery, in addition to having been diagnosed with diabetes a few months prior to his arrest, which caused cataracts, as well as suffering from asthma. According to his family, who met him during their last visit to him in prison, which took place on 07 August 2022; Dr. Shalaby suffers from weight loss and back pain, and he had requested the prison administration to refer him to an external hospital, where a specialised neurologist could attend to him, even at his own expense. This request was not approved to date.
Throughout his life, Dr. Shalaby has not been involved in any political activities, and he has not even voted in any presidential or parliamentary elections over the past years because of his indifference to politics. This is officially documented by the Egyptian Embassy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its consulate in Jeddah, where he resided during these elections.
The charge against Dr. Shalaby is supporting a terrorist group, and the evidence presented by the Public Prosecution is based on an incorrect and inaccurate statement given by another detainee, who used to work with him at the same hospital. When this person was asked about others who adopt his ideology at work, he stated that Dr. Shalaby was sympathetic to the Brotherhood and had voted for Mohamed Morsi in Egypt. This statement is incorrect, and cannot be ascertained considering the circumstances that the detainee was facing when giving this statement, and no fair judiciary can use it to set up an innocent person who was never involved in political affairs.
The defense’s response was decisive and clearly evidenced, as it confirmed that Dr. Shalaby was doing his work at Al-Wajh Hospital in the Tabuk region, while voting took place at the Egyptian consulates in Jeddah and the capital, Riyadh. What truly raises suspicions is the timing of the arrest, which came right after the verdict concerning the dues he is owed, in the case he brought against the Ministry of Health.
This case in fact represents a widespread pattern in Saudi Arabia, which entails targeting citizens and expats, including civil society activists, based on malicious charges, and in unfair trials that do not meet the minimum international standards of fair trial and due process.
The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) call on the Saudi government to:
Immediately and unconditionally release Dr Sabry Mus’ad Ibrahim Shalaby, drop all malicious charges against him, and allow him to return to Egypt after settling all his financial dues.
Please widely circulate the news regarding the case of the innocent Egyptian citizen Dr Sabry Mus’ad Ibrahim Shalaby, and tweet about this call for urgent action to the UN Special Procedures to request their immediate intervention.
1. United Nations Special Rapporteurs:
2. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud