The Forgotten Prisoners
Following the bombing of Khobar Towers in June 1996, which killed a number of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia, Saudi authorities have launched a wide campaign of arrests, including many citizens. Many of these citizens belong to the Shia Muslim community based in the Eastern region of the Kingdom, although the investigation did not prove the involvement of any of the detainees in the terrorist incident.
However, it was of interest to fabricate artificial charges to those detainees. These charges concern the exercise of religious activities and religious rituals, the distribution of tapes and religious books, and visiting the shrines «holy places to the Shiite » outside Saudi Arabia, such as Iraq and Iran, which is predominantly natural rights guaranteed and approved codes of the International Bill of Human Rights.
However, the Saudi authorities criminalize the Shiites citizens if they do the above activities and issued against dozens of detainees by these charges prison terms ranging from three to seven years, spent in extremely difficult conditions of torture and ill-treatment. Some of the organizations concerned with human rights in the world such as Human Rights Watch talked about these circumstances in its annual report for 2003.
Many detainees had been released after they completed their sentences issued against them, but there is still some of the detainees have been held for more than twelve years and Saudi authorities did not decide yet on their situation.
A huge explosion took place in one of the buildings in the residential housing complex in Khobar in the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia in the group of towers occupied by U.S. Soldiers on the twenty-fifth of June 1996.
The terrorists used a truck bomb and parked it next to the tower housing after passing the security checkpoints at the gates. After blowing, the terrorists escaped using another car that was waiting outside the compound.
The blast destroyed the bulk of the tower; nineteen American peoples killed and an estimated three hundred and fifty peoples were injured.
Since the announcement of the Khobar Towers bombing, the Saudi authorities initiated a campaign of arbitrary arrests among the Shiite citizens who constitute the majority population in the oil-rich Eastern Province.
The arrests included various groups, including social activists, intellectuals, clergy and actors, and sympathizers with the group «Hezbollah Hijaz».
Hezbollah Hijaz is a Shiite group founded in the mid-eighties and has a cultural and informational activities in Saudi Arabia and outside, and it seems that the Saudi authorities were waiting for a chance to hit the group and reduce its various activities and events. The Saudi authorities arrested all people that may belong to that group, more than 200 people has been arrested.
At the same time citizens of the Sunni community and supporters of al-Qaeda had been arrested, some of them had just returned from the war in Afghanistan, but most of them have been investigated in a superficial trial and released soon despite of evidence of their involvement in military training and possession of illegal weapons.
Since the first moments of their arrest, detainees were interrogated without the opportunity for them or their families to assign lawyers to defend them, instead the Saudi authorities assigned investigating officer to represent the defense of the detainees.
The courts were supervised by people who belong to the Salafy community, which included judges who do not rely on written laws or specific judicial reference, but the judges issued sentences based on the desire of the judge.
Some of these detainees were exposed, during their time in Dammam prison, to the most heinous and the most severe types of torture, including:
1 - Insulting religious beliefs and the divine.
2 - Personal insults and verbal abuse.
3 - Beatings with blunt objects.
4 - Electric chair rotor, where the detainee sitting on a chair working with electricity and going until the detainee loses consciousness or vomiting.
5 - Preventing the detainee of sleep.
6 - Made the detainee stand for a long time on one leg and force him to raise one hand.
7 - Pouring a cup of hot tea on the head of the detainee.
8 - Preventing the detainees from accessing bathroom. That resulted in some diseases in the urinary system and genital system and piles. When they are allowed entry to the bathroom they could not stay for more than five minutes, even some who have obtained a medical report to be allowed to enter the bathroom at any time they need, does not allow to do so.
9 - Full strip of their clothes.
10 - Sexual torture as a threat and exercise, and inserting an iron rod in the back of the body of the detainees.
11 - Solitary confinement for more than 4 months in a room of less than two square meters and without window or air conditioning.
12- Prevention of some of them from bathing for four consecutive months.
13 - Prevent detainees from exercising or doing any kind of physical exercise.
14 - Prevent the entry of newspapers and magazines and everything has a connection to the world outside the prison.
After being transferred to a prison in Riyadh Region, the conditions of detention relatively improved. Their families were allowed to visit them for extended periods. They received more humane treatment than when they were in the intelligence prison in Dammam.
Saudi authorities continue to delay the consideration of these detainees, even after the exposure of all the evidences in support of their innocence. Families of the detainees had tried repeatedly inquiring about the fate of detainees by sending letters to the Minister of Interior Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz, and follow up with Eastern Province Emara, but they did not get any clear answer.
The detainees so far spent more than twelve years under the conditions of the torture, physical offensive and no contact outside the prison.
We are on behalf of the relatives of the detainees appeal to the consciences of all the free world, and to all the committees and bodies concerned with human rights issues of prisoners of conscience and against torture, and especially our appeal of the National Society for Human Rights, to intervene in accordance with the mechanisms available and legitimate, and strive in relevant international forums to put pressure on the Government of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and carry on the initiative to end the immediate suffering of these forgotten prisoners who are located in al-Hair Prison, Riyadh.