Responding to news of the death of Dr Abdullah al-Hamid, a prisoner of conscience who passed away while in detention in Saudi Arabia, 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.”
Dr Abdullah al-Hamid
Dr al-Hamid, 69, was a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). The organization – whose slogan is ‘Know your rights’ – was committed to promoting the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other international treaties and standards.
Dr Abdullah al-Hamid suffered from hypertension, and was told three months ago by a doctor that he needed to undergo heart surgery. He was threatened by prison authorities that if he told his family about his health condition, they would cut his communication with his family. Dr Abdullah al-Hamid had suffered a stroke on 9 April and remained in detention, despite being in a coma in the intensive care unit at al-Shumaisi Hospital in Riyadh.
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. He is survived by his wife and eight children.
Dr al-Hamid was prosecuted repeatedly for his peaceful work since 1993. 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 organizations against the Kingdom”.
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Lucy Scholey, Media Officer, Amnesty International Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org