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Abdullah al-Hamid, Saudi human rights pioneer, dies in prison serving time for activism

Adullah al- Hamid was a tireless advocate for human rights in the kingdom [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 April, 2020

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A famous human rights defender, who was serving 11 years in a Saudi prison for his advocacy, has died.

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

The scholar died on Friday morning in prison, after suffering a stroke on 9 April.

He remained in detention, despite being in a coma in the intensive care unit at al-Shumaisi Hospital in Riyadh.

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

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

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

Responding to news of is death, 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.

"We again call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those still imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their human rights."

Human rights pioneer

Dr al-Hamid was a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), and spent years advocating for and promoting rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

He has published 15 books and seven collections of poetry, and has written many articles about civil reform, and challenged the kingdom's monopoly on Islam.

As a human rights defender, writer and academic, he had written extensively on human rights and the independence of judiciary. He was a professor of contemporary literature at al-Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh before being dismissed for his activism.

Dr al-Hamid was prosecuted repeatedly for his peaceful work, and he was first arrest in 1993 after he founded group with other academics who advocated for the kingdom to recognise and implement key human rights.

In March 2012, he and Mohammad al-Qahtani, a fellow ACPRA founding member, were arrested and interrogated regarding their work with ACPRA and their peaceful activism.

In March 2013, they were sentenced to 11 and 10 years in prison respectively, on charges of "breaking allegiance to the ruler", "questioning the integrity of officials”, “seeking to disrupt security and inciting disorder by calling for demonstrations", and "instigating international organisations against the Kingdom".

His two brothers Issa and Abdulrahman al-Hamid are currently imprisoned for their activism.

He is survived by his wife and eight children.

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