Profile in Persecution: Husain Bin Abdulla AlSadeq

Before his arrest, 46-year-old Husain Bin Abdulla AlSadeq was a prominent social activist from Saudi who was involved in religious associations, voluntary charitable committees, and the organization of religious and cultural events, activities and lectures in Qatif. Since his arrest, Husain has been transferred to several prisons and detention centers and has been subjected to severe torture and beatings, the traces of which are still visible to this day. He is currently held in Mabahith prison in Dammam where he faces discrimination on the basis of his Shiite sect.

On 1 October 2015, Husain was summoned to the Tarout police station for investigation, where police officers arrested him without presenting an arrest warrant. Husain was summoned after the mayor of Tarout, Abdel Halim Kaidar, presented false allegations against him to the Tarout police. Following the 2015 Mina stampede in Mecca, Tarout Mayor Abdel Halim Kaidar verbally attacked the Shiite religious figure Sayed Ali Khamenei. Husain then called the mayor to protest this verbal attack and an argument escalated between the two, with the mayor accusing Husain of insulting the King and the Saudi government. Before his arrest, Husain was summoned twice but was not arrested. Previously, he was also summoned in 1997 for participating in funeral processions and was arrested during a protest in support of Gaza in 2008.

Following his arrest, Husain spent a total of two weeks at the Qatif detention center where he was questioned about the accusations made against him by the Tarout Mayor. AlSadeq’s family was not officially notified of his arrest by the authorities, but they expected him to have been arrested because he remained at Tarout police station for a while and did not return home. His brother then headed to the Qatif police station where authorities confirmed that AlSadeq was being held there. At the Qatif police station, AlSadeq’s family was permitted to visit him and bring him food.

After those two weeks, AlSadeq’s family headed to Qatif police station to visit him but was surprised to find out that he had been transferred to the Mabahith prison in Dammam where he was subjected to all kinds of physical and psychological torture and was held in solitary confinement for more than three months, until his trial commenced. During this period of investigation and solitary confinement, AlSadeq’s family was not allowed to visit him nor talk to him on the phone.

Because calls and visits with Husain are all monitored, his family could not get details about the torture and ill-treatment he was subjected to. Nevertheless, the family found out that he fell unconscious for three days as a result of torture and had to be transferred to a hospital’s intensive care unit for treatment. However, his family still do not know which hospital he was transferred to nor the nature of the treatment he received. Traces of torture are still visible on Husain who has lost weight and whose build has weakened. Throughout the investigation period, Husain was not permitted to have the assistance of a lawyer and for the first two years of his arrest, he was not allowed to even hire a lawyer.  Under torture, Husain confessed to the charges attributed to him.

Before his trial, Husain’s lawyer was not allowed to request a session with his client, hindering his ability to prepare for trial. Moreover, during the court sessions, Husain asked to present evidence proving that the confessions were extracted from him under torture, so he requested to see video tapes of the interrogation sessions and to receive his medical report proving that he entered the hospital with signs of torture all over his body and that he was unconscious for three days. However, the Investigations Security Services refused.

When Husain had to be present in court, he would usually be transferred to Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh a couple of days before his court sessions.  Once they were over, he would be taken back to Al-Ha’ir prison for a couple of days before being transferred back to Mabahith Prison in Dammam. Husain’s family was never informed of his transfer to Riyadh for court sessions by the Saudi authorities but rather found out through the families of other detainees. When Husain’s family contacted the Dammam Investigation Department to inquire about his fate, they were referred to the Criminal Court in Riyadh which informed them that the court session had already taken place. At that time, the family was not informed of the charges made against Husain, nor were they aware of the court proceedings which took place without the appointment of a lawyer, or even the presence of an attorney. His family was only allowed to visit him once at the Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh after his first trial session.

In total, Husain was charged with 1) loyalty to foreign countries, namely Iran, 2) affiliation with Hezbollah and 3) sending anything that would threaten public security. On 20 February 2018, more than two years after his arrest, Husain was sentenced by the Specialized Criminal Court to 9 years of imprisonment. During the investigation period in the first year of his arrest, Husain was fined 5,000 Saudi riyals under the pretext that they would be used to set up barriers around the mosque of the town he lives in to protect worshipers from terrorist attacks. During his sentencing in 2018, he was further fined 100,000 Saudi riyals as penalties. On 17 January 2021, upon appeal, Husain’s sentence was increased by an additional four years, making his sentence a total of 13 years of imprisonment.

Since Husain’s arrest, his wife and children are no longer allowed to travel outside of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi authorities also refused to register his youngest daughter, who was born a couple of months following Husain’s arrest, and denied her access to civil registration documents until the family paid a fine of 5000 Saudi Riyals. However, his daughter was provided with all documents except her passport, meaning she is not allowed to travel outside the country.

Furthermore, since the spread of COVID-19 in Saudi Arabia, Husain’s family has not been allowed to visit him and, using the pandemic as a pretext to further violate his rights, the prison authorities only allow Husain to contact his family by phone once every two weeks for five minutes and under surveillance. Before the suspension of visits, only Husain’s wife and daughters were allowed to visit him once a month, and they were able to talk freely only twice behind soundproof barriers, before visits were reduced to only one call per month. Husain received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but his family does not know much about the health and sanitary conditions inside the prison nor about the measures taken against the spread of the virus. They do not even know which vaccine he received.

The Saudi authorities’ treatment of Husain, from his warrantless arrest, his denial of fair trial rights, his torture and discrimination, the legal repercussions against his family, and his two-year detention awaiting sentence are all in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and constitute violations of Saudi Arabia’s obligations under international treaties, namely the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). ADHRB therefore urges Saudi authorities to drop all convictions through unfair trial and to grant Husain a fair retrial respecting international judicial and evidentiary standards. Finally, ADHRB calls upon Saudi authorities to investigate allegations of torture and inhumane treatment by investigations officers with a view to holding them accountable and to remove all legal obstacles which Husain’s family members are facing as a result of his arbitrary detention.