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The New Arab Staff

Detained Saudi rights advocate launches hunger strike

Al-Qahtani launched a hunger strike on December 19 [Twitter]

Date of publication: 28 December, 2020

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Muhammad al-Qahtani, the co-founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) organisation, launched a hunger strike in al-Ha'ir Prison.
A prominent Saudi rights advocate has launched a hunger strike in al-Ha'ir prison in Riyadh, opposition figures said on social media.

Muhammad al-Qahtani, a professor of economics and co-founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) organisation, started his hunger strike on December 19 after being "deprived of his most basic rights", his wife Maha al-Qahtani said.

The detained activist has also been denied family contact, access to books and essential medication, ACPRA said.

The 55-year-old professor was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to ten years in prison, as well as a travel ban for another decade.

In a tweet, Prisoners of Conscience warned al-Qahtani "is in real danger" after the ninth consecutive day of hunger strike over conditions in the prison, noting "his wife holds authorities responsible for his health and life".

"There is no substitute for his immediate release. We do not want him to meet the fate of Al-Hamid," the group said on Twitter, referring to a close aide of al-Qahtani who passed away earlier this year.

Abdullah al-Hamid, also a leading Saudi human rights advocate and part of the political reform movement in Saudi Arabia died in prison while serving a sentence for his activism.

He suffered a stroke on April 9 and remained in detention, despite being in a coma in the intensive care unit at al-Shumaisi Hospital in Riyadh.

Al-Hamid, 69, suffered from hypertension, and was told three months ago by a doctor that he needed to undergo heart surgery.

However, he was allegedly threatened by prison authorities that if he told his family about his health condition, they could cut his communication with them.

Read also: US court issues summons for MbS, MbZ over hacking of Al Jazeera reporter

Rights groups, including Prisoners of Conscious, described his death as "due to intentional health neglect".

Responding to news of is death in April, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East Research Director, said:

"We are devastated to learn of Dr Abdullah al-Hamid's passing while he remained in detention for his peaceful activism.

"Dr al-Hamid was a fearless champion for human rights in Saudi Arabia, who was determined to build a better world for all. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, who for the past eight years had been deprived of his presence as a result of the state's inhumane repression.

"As a prominent human rights campaigner, Dr al-Hamid's important work continues to resonate throughout the region. He, and all other prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia, should never have been in jail in the first place."

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