Saudi Arabia: Free Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani immediately and unconditionally


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses its grave concern over the complete disruption of communications between human rights defender Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani and his family.

Since 24 October 2022, the contact between Dr. Al-Qahtani and his family has been completely cut off, at a time when reliable local sources confirmed that he was not seen in ward (8A) within Al-Ha’ir Reformatory Prison in Riyadh, where he is serving his sentence, which is due to end on 22 November 2022.

His wife, human rights defender Maha Al-Qahtani, had filed a complaint on 10 October 2022 with the director of Al-Ha'ir Reformatory Prison about her husband being repeatedly assaulted by inmates suffering from mental illnesses who are in the same wing. In this complaint, she confirmed that he was also constantly watched and followed by one of the inmates, who also incited the rest of the mentally-ill inmates against him. His wife demanded the authorities put serious efforts to stop these attacks, which put Dr. Al-Qahtani's life in grave danger. There are concerns that this complaint may be one of the reasons why he is currently targeted.

Dr. Al-Qahtani is a founding member of the Association for Civil and Political Rights in Saudi Arabia (ACPRA) and a professor at the Institute of Diplomatic Studies, which operates under the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On 09 March 2013, the Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced Dr. Al-Qahtani to 10 years in prison on 12 charges including setting up an unlicensed organisation (namely ACPRA).

The ACPRA was founded on 12 October 2009 to promote fundamental rights in Saudi Arabia, and was banned in 2013. Most of its members were arrested and put on trial, and remain in prison to this day.

He has already been targeted several times in the past. GCHR has documented all these violations, see:

GCHR condemns the ongoing targeting of prominent human rights defender Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani and calls on the authorities to put an end to it immediately. The authorities should fully implement the United Nations Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) while he remains in prison.

GCHR calls on the authorities in Saudi Arabia to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani, all other members of the ACPRA and all prisoners of conscience;
  2. While in custody, provide proper care to maintain his health, and allow him full access to his family;
  3. Allow prisoners to file complaints for abuse in prison and ensure accountability for those who attack them; and
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals.