Employee of Saudi Red Crescent sentenced to 20 years in prison after three years of disappearance

Employee of Saudi Red Crescent sentenced to 20 years in prison after three years of disappearance

Al Sadhan was arrested on March 12, 2018, by Al Mabahith security forces. After nearly two years of enforced disappearance, on February 12, 2020 Al Sadhan was allowed to make a call to his family. His family only heard from him again one year later, on February 22, 2021. On March 3, 2021, he was brought to a secret trial before the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) for running two satirical Twitter accounts. On April 5, 2021, the SCC sentenced Al Sadhan to 20 years in prison, followed by a travel ban of another 20 years.
Latest Updates
April 14, 2021: MENA Rights Group and ALQST for Human Rights submit Al Sadhan’s case, along with the cases of several other Saudi human rights defenders, to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
April 7, 2021: MENA Rights Group submits an urgent appeal to several UN Special Procedures, including the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, to request Al Sadhan’s immediate and unconditional release.
April 5, 2021: The SCC sentences Al Sadhan to 20 years in prison, followed by a travel ban of another 20 years.

Al Sadhan is given 30 days to appeal the decision.
March 25, 2021: In a fifth hearing, the prosecutor presents a number of allegations, such as Al Sadhan having omitted to ask for a lawyer. His family denies the allegations.
March 22, 2021: Al Sadhan’s fourth hearing goes ahead in the absence of any legal representation.
March 17, 2021: In his third hearing, Al Sadhan’s lawyer presents his defence, refuting all accusations made against him.
March 11, 2021: A second hearing takes place, with Al Sadhan being represented by a court-appointed lawyer. A document of over 200 pages is presented, which contains tweets as “evidence” and confessions made by Al Sadhan under duress.
March 3, 2021: Al Sadhan is brought to a secret trial before the SCC for a first hearing. He is charged in relation to two satirical Twitter accounts he was running.
February 22, 2021: Al Sadhan is allowed for a second time to make a call to his family.
February 12, 2020: Al Sadhan is allowed to call his family for the first time.
November 25, 2018: National Society for Human Rights informs family of his transfer to Al Ha’ir Prison.
November 1, 2018: MENA Rights Group submits his case to UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances. The Saudi authorities never respond to the Working Group’s request to clarify Al Sadhan’s fate and whereabouts.
March 12, 2018: Al Sadhan is arrested by Al Mabahith security forces at the Saudi Red Crescent Authority headquarters in Riyadh.

At around noon on March 12, 2018, Al Mabahith security forces dressed in civilian clothes arrested Al Sadhan from his place of work at the Red Crescent Authority in Riyadh. They confiscated his phone before taking him to an unknown location. They did not show an arrest warrant nor did they give any reason for the arrest.

The next day, neighbours reported that they saw a group of men dressed in police uniforms forcefully entering his house. As they were walking out of the property, they were spotted removing electronic equipment and personal belongings.

Abdulrahman Al Sadhan was allegedly seen on October 28, 2018 at Dhahban Prison in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Though the family has been unable to confirm whether he was held at Dhabhan Prison at any point, they learned that Mr Al Sadhan was subjected to severe torture and sexual harassment while held in a secret location during his first year in detention, which includes, but is not limited to: electric shocks, beatings that caused broken bones, flogging, hanging from the feet and suspension in stress-positions, threats of murder and beheading, insults, verbal humiliation.

On February 12, 2020, Al Sadhan was allowed to make a call to his family. However, his relatives continued to be denied family visits and have not yet been officially informed of his whereabouts.

On February 22, 2021, Al Sadhan was allowed for a second time to make a call to his family. He was, moreover, informed that he would “be released soon” and that there were “no charges against him.”

In spite of the authorities’ affirmations, on March 3, 2021, Al Sadhan was brought to a secret trial before the SCC for having run two satirical Twitter accounts, with one having over 170,000 followers. MENA Rights Group and Al Sadhan’s family strongly believe that Al Sadhan was identified as the author of the accounts by former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia.

Al Sadhan was, inter alia, accused of “funding terrorism”, “support and sympathy for ISIS” and “preparing, storing and sending what would prejudice public order and religious values”, under the Anti-Terrorism and Anti-Cybercrime Laws.

In a second hearing on March 11, 2021, Al Sadhan was represented by a court-appointed lawyer. A document of over 200 pages containing tweets as “evidence” and confessions is presented. Al Sadhan likely made the confessions under duress. His health appeared to be poor and he informed his father that he had developed prediabetes due to deplorable detention conditions and inadequate food. His family believes he has no access to adequate medical care.

On March 17, 2021, Al Sadhan’s lawyer presented his defence, refuting all allegations made against him. On March 22, 2021, his fourth hearing went ahead in the absence of his defence lawyer and his father (who had legal representation rights), which effectively left him without any legal representation.

On March 25, 2021, the prosecutor presented the court with new allegations, among them that Al Sadhan had not asked for a lawyer and had been visited by the Saudi Human Rights Commission in prison. His family denied these allegations and on April 1, 2021, his lawyer submitted a response contesting the claims. Al Sadhan also shared with his father that he suffers from high triglycerides due to the poor detention conditions.

On April 5, 2021, the SCC sentenced Al Sadhan to 20 years in prison, followed by a travel ban of another 20 years. Both his father and his lawyer were hindered from attending the hearing and were only allowed to enter the court room when the decision had already been rendered. Al Sadhan was given 30 days to appeal the decision.

On April 7, 2021, MENA Rights Group submitted an urgent appeal to several UN Special Procedures mandate holders, including the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression to request Al Sadhan’s immediate and unconditional release.