Issa Al Nukheifi sentenced to six years in prison in Saudi Arabia on charges related to human rights work

Issa Al Nukheifi sentenced to six years in prison in Saudi Arabia on charges related to human rights work

Human rights defender and anti-corruption activist Issa Al Nukheifi was arrested in December 2016 and has been subjected to reprisals repeatedly by the Saudi authorities for his human rights activism and cooperation with international civil society and the United Nations. He is currently serving a six-year prison sentence, to be followed by a six-year travel and social media ban upon his release, on charges that stemmed directly from the exercise of his rights to freedom of expression.
Latest Updates
September 9, 2019: Mentioned in the Secretary-General’s 2019 report on reprisals.
August 8, 2019: MENA Rights Group submits request for Opinion to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. News of his transfer to Riyadh for re-trial emerges.
July 2019: Reports emerge of ill-treatment in prison.
May 1, 2019: MENA Rights Group raises case with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights ahead of the preparation of the Secretary-General’s 2019 report on reprisals.
August 2018: UN Secretary-General raises case in 2018 report on reprisals against individuals who cooperate with the UN in the field of human rights.
April 7, 2018: Court of Appeal confirms sentence in a decision that cannot be further appealed.
February 28, 2018: Sentenced to six years in prison followed by a six-year travel and social media ban upon his release.
August 21, 2017: Trial commences before Specialised Criminal Court.
December 30, 2016: Transferred to Mecca General Prison and subjected to ill-treatment.
December 18, 2016: Arrested immediately upon arrival at the Criminal Investigation Department.
December 17, 2016: Summoned to Saudi authorities’ Criminal Investigation Department.
April 6, 2016: Released.
April 29, 2013: Sentenced by Specialised Criminal Court to three years in prison and a four-year travel ban.
September 15, 2012: Arrested.

Human rights defender and anti-corruption activist Issa Al Nukheifi has been subjected to reprisals repeatedly by the Saudi authorities for his human rights activism and cooperation with international civil society and the United Nations. In late 2016, Al Nukheifi had been consulted during the preparation for the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty’s visit to Saudi Arabia in January 2017, and he had agreed to meet and further assist the team on the ground.

On September 15, 2012, Al Nukheifi was arrested soon after appearing on television accusing the local authorities in Jazan, in the south-west of Saudi Arabia on the border with Yemen, of corruption and human rights violations during the forced eviction of nearly 12,000 residents of the region. On April 29, 2013, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) sentenced Al Nukheifi to three years in prison and a four-year travel ban based on provisions of the country’s Anti-Cybercrime Law. He was released on April 6, 2016.

Eight months later, on December 17, 2016, Al Nukheifi was summoned by the government’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Upon reporting to the police station the following day, he was arrested immediately.

Al Nukheifi was questioned by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP) about his tweets calling for the release of members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association and his contact with international human rights organisations. Al Nukheifi was also interrogated about his new Twitter account, which called for democracy in Saudi Arabia and the establishment of a directly elected “Saudi Popular Parliament”.

On December 30, 2016, Al Nukheifi was transferred to Mecca General Prison, where he was forced to sleep on the floor without a blanket and repeatedly threatened with torture. 

Al Nukheifi’s trial commenced before the SCC on August 21, 2017. The charges brought against him included “seeking to destabilise the social fabric and national cohesion”; “communicating with and receiving money from foreign groups considered to be enemies of the state” and “using a personal cell phone and the internet to store and transfer information that is harmful to the public order” and “adopting a ‘Takfiri’ approach by accusing the Guardians of Saudi Arabia of being infidels”.

On February 28, 2018, the SCC sentenced Al Nukheifi to six years in prison and imposed a six-year travel and social media ban on him upon his release. On April 7, 2018, in a decision that cannot be further appealed, the Court of Appeal confirmed Al Nukheifi’s sentence.

The UN Secretary-General raised Al Nukheifi’s case in his 2018 report on reprisals against individuals who cooperate with the UN in the field of human rights. 

In April 2019, Al Nukeifi requested to be transferred to Jizan prison in order to be closer to his 80-year-old mother, who struggles to visit him at Makkah General Prison, which is over 700 kilometres away from their usual residence. To date, his request has not been granted.

In July 2019, it was reported that Al Nukheifi was being subjected to on-going ill-treatment, including being stripped of his clothes and having his hands and feet shackled. In August, it emerged that he had been transferred to Riyadh for re-trial, without any further clarifications.