Saudi Arabia Recruits Twitter Employees Charged For Spying

Saudi Arabia Recruits Twitter Employees Charged For Spying

By Staff, Agencies

The Saudi government, frustrated by growing criticism of its leaders and policies on social media, recruited two Twitter employees to gather confidential personal information on thousands of accounts that included prominent opponents, prosecutors announced on Wednesday.


The complaint unsealed in US District Court in San Francisco detailed a coordinated effort by Saudi government officials to recruit employees at the social media giant to look up the private data of Twitter accounts, including email addresses linked to the accounts and internet protocol addresses that can give up a user’s location.

The accounts included those of a popular critic of the government with more than one million followers and a news personality. Neither was named.

Two Saudi citizens and one US citizen worked together to unmask the ownership details behind dissident Twitter accounts on behalf of the government in Riyadh and the royal family, the US justice department said.

According to a court filing, they were guided by an unnamed Saudi official who worked for someone prosecutors designated “Royal Family Member-1,” which The Washington Post reported was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or MBS as he is commonly known.

Those charged were Twitter employees Ali Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, along with Ahmed Almutairi, a marketing official with ties to the royal family.

“The criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that Saudi agents mined Twitter’s internal systems for personal information about known Saudi critics and thousands of other Twitter users,” said US lawyer David Anderson.

“US law protects US companies from such an unlawful foreign intrusion. We will not allow US companies or US technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of US law,” he said in a statement.

The lawsuit comes as US-Saudi relations continue to suffer strains over the brutal, Riyadh-sanctioned murder one year ago of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for, among others, The Washington Post newspaper

A critic of MBS, Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

According to the Post, US intelligence has concluded that the prince himself was closely linked to the murder.

The criminal allegations reveal the extent the Saudi government went to control the flow of information on Twitter, said Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher with Human Rights Watch.

Two Former Twitter Employees Accused of Spying for Saudi Arabia

Closer than Ever: US Preparing with ’Israel’ a Camp David-style Summit, Gulf Monarchies on Guests List



By Staff, Agencies 

“Israeli” News channel 12 revealed that the United States and the Zionist occupation entity are advancing plans for an agreement with some Gulf Arab states to tackle their mutual enemy, Iran.

The initiative, championed by Zionist Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, will see Arab Gulf states sign a non-aggression treaty and economic cooperation agreement, a major step towards normalizing relations with the apartheid “Israeli” entity.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the initiative is “excellent”, News 12 reported.

Katz also said during talks with American officials that “the goal is to sign an agreement [with Gulf states] on the White House lawn, during Trump’s current administration”.

In November 2018, Katz announced the “Peace Rails” initiative that would connect some Gulf monarchies to the Mediterranean ports of Occupied Palestine.

Katz presented the “Israel”-Gulf initiative to the former US envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, and according to News 12, the initiative aims at “developing friendships and cooperation ties”.

The initiative will oblige its parties to “take effective measures so that acts of wars, threats or hostility” or any incitement does not arise from signatories’ territories against any of the treaty’s parties.

The sides will be obliged to “refrain from joining, promoting or assisting a coalition, organization or an alliance of military or security nature, with a third party”, News 12 added.

In January, it was reported that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is “seriously considering” setting up a “game-changing” Camp David-style summit meeting with Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with US President Donald Trump playing host.

The ‘War’ for the Future of Middle East

Image result for The ‘War’ for the Future of Middle East

Alastair Crooke
November 4, 2019

Oh, oh, here we are again! In 1967, it was then the ‘threat’ of the standing Arab Armies (and the ensuing six-day war on Egypt and Syria); in 1980, it was Iran (and the ensuing Iraqi war on Iran); in 1996, it was David Wurmser with his Coping with Crumbling States (flowing on from the infamous Clean Break policy strategy paper) which at that time targeted secular-Arab nationalist states, excoriated both as “crumbling relics of the ‘evil’ USSR” and inherently hostile to Israel, too; and in the 2003 and 2006 wars, it was Saddam Hussein firstly; and then Hezbollah that threatened the safety of the West’s civilizational ‘outpost’ in the Middle East.

And here we are once more, Israel cannot safely ‘live’ in a region containing a militant Hezbollah.

Not surprisingly, the Russian Ambassador in Beirut, Alexander Zasypkin, quickly recognized this all too familiar pattern: Speaking with al-Akhbar on 9 October in Beirut (more than a week before the protests in Beirut erupted), the Ambassador dismissed the prospect of any easing of regional tensions; but rather identified the economic crisis that has been building for years in Lebanon as the ‘peg’ on which the US and its allies might sow chaos in Lebanon (and in Iraq’s parallel economic calamity), to strike at Hezbollah and the Hash’d A-Sha’abi — Israel’s and America’s adversaries in the region.

Why now? Because what happened to Aramco on 14 September has shocked both Israel and America: the former Commander of the Israeli Air Force wrote recently, “recent events are forcing Israel to recalculate its path as it navigates events. The technological abilities of Iran and its various proxies has reached a level at which they can now alter the balance of power around the world”. Not only could neither state identify the modus operando to the strikes (even now); but worse, neither had any answer to the technological feat the strikes plainly represented. In fact, the lack of any available ‘answer’ prompted one leading western defense analyst to suggest that Saudi should buy Russian Pantsir missiles rather than American air defenses.

And worse. For Israel, the Aramco shock arrived precisely at the moment that the US began its withdrawal of its ‘comfort security blanket’ from the region – leaving Israel (and Gulf States) on their own – and now vulnerable to technology they never expected their adversaries to possess. Israelis – and particularly its PM – though always conscious to the hypothetical possibility, never thought withdrawal actually would happen, and never during the term of the Trump Administration.

This has left Israel completely knocked, and at sixes-and sevens. It has turned strategy on its head, with the former Israeli Air Force Commander (mentioned above) speculating on Israel’s uncomfortable options – going forward – and even postulating whether Israel now needed to open a channel to Iran. This latter option, of course, would be culturally abhorrent to most Israelis. They would prefer a bold, out-of-the-blue, Israeli paradigm ‘game-changer’ (i.e. such as happened in 1967) to any outreach to Iran. This is the real danger.

It is unlikely that the stirring of protests in Lebanon and Iraq are somehow a direct response to the above: but rather, more likely, they lie with old plans (including the recently leaked strategy paper for countering Iran, presented by MbS to the White House), and with the regular strategic meetings held between Mossad and the US National Security Council, under the chairmanship of John Bolton.

Whatever the specific parentage, the ‘playbook’ is quite familiar: spark a popular ‘democratic’ dissent (based on genuine grievances); craft messaging and a press campaign that polarizes the population, and which turns their anger away from generalized discontent towards targeting specific enemies (in this case Hezbollah, President Aoun and FM Gebran Bassil (whose sympathies with Hezbollah and President Assad make him a prime target, especially as heir-apparent to the leadership of the majority of Christians). The aim – as always – is to drive a wedge between Hezbollah and the Army, and between Hezbollah and the Lebanese people.

It began when, during his meeting with President Aoun in March 2019, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo reportedly presented an ultimatum: Contain Hezbollah or expect unprecedented consequences, including sanctions and the loss of US aid. Leaked reports suggest that Pompeo subsequently brought ally, PM Hariri into the picture of the planned disturbances when Hariri and his wife hosted Secretary Pompeo and his wife for a lunch banquet at Hariri’s ranch near Washington at the end of the Lebanese premier’s August visit to the US.

As the Lebanese demonstrations began, reports of an ‘operations room’ in Beirut managing and analyzing the protests, and of large scale funding by Gulf states proliferated; but for reasons that are not clear, the protests faltered. The Army which originally stood curiously aloof, finally engaged in clearing the streets, and returning some semblance of normality – and the Central Bank governor’s strangely alarmist forecasts of imminent financial collapse were countered by other financial experts presenting a less frightening picture.

It seems that neither in Lebanon or in Iraq will US objectives finally be achieved (i.e. Hizbullah and Hash’d A-Sha’abi emasculated). In Iraq, this may be a less certain outcome however, and the potential risks the US is running in fomenting chaos much greater, should Iraq slip into anarchy. The loss of Iraq’s 5 million barrels/day of crude would crater the market for crude – and in these economically febrile times, this might be enough to tip the global economy into recession.

But that would be ‘small beer’ compared to the risk that the US is running in tempting ‘The Fates’ over a regional war that reaches Israel.

But is there a wider message connecting these Middle East protests with those erupting across Latin America? One analyst has coined the term for this era, as an Age of Anger disgorging from “serial geysers” of discontent across the globe from Equador to Chile to Egypt. His theme is that neoliberalism is everywhere – literally – burning.

We have noted before, how the US sought to leverage the unique consequences arising from two World Wars, and the debt burden that they bequeathed, to award itself dollar hegemony, as well the truly exceptional ability to issue fiat credit across the globe at no cost to the US (the US simply ‘printed’ its fiat credit). US financial institutions could splurge credit around the world, at virtually no cost – and live off the rent which those investments returned. But ultimately that came at a price: The limitation – to being the global rentier – has become evident through disparities of wealth, and through the incremental impoverishment of the American middle classes that the concomitant off-shoring brought about. Well-paid jobs evaporated, even as America’s financialised banking balance sheet ballooned across the globe.

But there was perhaps another aspect to this present Age of Anger. It is TINA: ‘There is no alternative’. Not because of an absence of potentiality – but because alternatives were crushed. At the end of two World Wars, there was an understanding of the need for a different way-of-being; an end to the earlier era of servitude; a new society; a new social contract. But it was short-lived.

And – long story, short – that post-war longing for ‘fairness’ (whatever that meant) has been squeezed dry; ‘other politics or economics’ of whatever colour, has been derided as ‘fake news’ – and in the wake of the 2008 great financial crisis, all sorts of safety-nets were sacrificed, and private wealth ‘appropriated’ for the purpose of the re-building of bank balance sheets, preserving the integrity of debt, and for keeping interest rates low. People became ‘individuals’ – on their own – to sort out their own austerity. Is it then, that people now are feeling both impoverished materially by that austerity, and impoverished humanly by their new era servitude?

The Middle East may pass through today’s present crises (or not), but be aware that, in their despair in Latin America, the ‘there is no alternative’ meme is becoming reason for protestors ‘to burn the system down’. That is what happens when alternatives are foreclosed (albeit in the interests of preserving ‘us’ from system collapse).

HRW Highlights «Deepening Repression» Under Saudi’s MBS

HRW Highlights «Deepening Repression» Under Saudi’s MBS

By Staff, Agencies

Human Rights Watch says Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s [MBS] rise to power two years ago has been accompanied by “deepening repression and abusive practices” across the kingdom.

In a new report released on Monday, the New York-based group said activists, clerics and other perceived critics of the Saudi crown prince continue to be arbitrarily detained more than a year after the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey.

The report noted the detention of dissidents and harassment of their families was not a new phenomenon in the kingdom history, but the wave of repression since late 2017 had been distinguished by new repressive measures.

“Detaining citizens for peaceful criticism of the government’s policies or human rights advocacy is not a new phenomenon in Saudi Arabia,” it said.

“But what has made the post-2017 arrest waves notable and different, however, is the sheer number and range of individuals targeted over a short period of time as well as the introduction of new repressive practices.”

The crackdown under MBS began in September 2017 with the arrest of dozens of critics and rights activists in what was widely interpreted as an attempt to crush dissent.

The crown prince has also been on a modernization drive with reforms including allowing women over 21 to obtain passports and travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian.

But these reforms have belied a “darker reality,” according to the report, including the mass arrests of women’s rights activists, a number of whom have allegedly been sexually assaulted and suffered torture including whipping and electric shocks.

The report also said those reforms were a smokescreen for the ongoing detention of dozens of dissidents, some allegedly tortured in custody.

“Important social reforms enacted under Prince Mohammed have been accompanied by deepening repression and abusive practices meant to silence dissidents and critics.”

According to the report, the new repressive measure by MBS included extorting financial assets in exchange for a detainee’s freedom, a tool used against dozens of business people and royal family members arbitrarily held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh in November 2017.

Hundreds of elite princes and businessmen were then detained in what was billed as a move against corruption that was draining state coffers.

HRW cited reports that Saudi Arabia has used surveillance technologies to hack into the online accounts of the regime critics and infected their mobile phones with spyware.

The report also highlighted a lack of accountability for those responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, a crime MBS has sought to distance himself from.

A UN report released in June said there was “credible evidence” MBS and other senior Saudi officials were liable for Khashoggi’s killing, which the kingdom has characterized as a rogue operation by its agents.

But the international criticism has failed to halt a campaign against perceived dissidents inside the kingdom, according to the HRW report, with waves of arrests carried out against women’s rights activists and their allies this year, including the writer Khadijah al-Harbi, who was pregnant at the time of her detention.

Netanyahu May Have Visited Saudi Arabia This Week – Report

Netanyahu May Have Visited Saudi Arabia This Week - Report

By Staff, Agencies

A privately owned, unidentified Challenger 604 jet departed from Zionist Ben-Gurion International Airport, landing first in the Jordanian capital of Amman and then in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh on Tuesday evening, causing many to question which ‘Israeli’ official decided to pay the Saudis a visit.

The plane in question departed from the ‘Israeli’-occupied territories and flew to an airport in Amman, where it remained on the ground for about two minutes before taking off again and landing in the Saudi capital.

After a little less than an hour, the plane, privately owned and registered in the United States, took off and returned to Ben-Gurion Airport.

The plane has also made trips in recent months between Tel Aviv and Cairo.

US War Secretary Mark Esper was also in Riyadh at around the same time, pointed out Haaretz reporter Avi Scharf in a tweet.

Maariv reporter Yossi Melman posited in a tweet that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Mossad chief Yossi Cohen may have been on the flight.

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السعودية تُطأطئ رأسها أمام اليمنيين.. هل الحرب في نهايتها؟

د. حسن مرهج

أكتوبر 16, 2019
كثيرة هي المؤشرات التي تصبّ بمُجملها في بوتقة الانتصار اليمني، خاصة أنّ مروحة الانتصارات اليمنية في اتساع مضطرد. هذه الانتصارات ستُلقي بظلالها على كافة المسارات السياسية والعسكرية، في ما يتعلق بتفاصيل الحرب على اليمن، ومنظومة العدوان السعودي.

التحوّلات المفصلية في سياق الحرب على اليمن، فرضت نمطاً من التعاطي السياسي ومثله العسكري في تهيئة المناخات الإيجابية، والتي ستؤدّي حُكماً للتوصل إلى حلّ سياسي في اليمن، ولكن على قاعدة حفظ ماء وجه كلّ الأطراف الفاعلة في الحرب على اليمن.

باكورة الإنجازات الاستراتيجية تمثلت في الهجمات على أرامكو، حيث بات واضحاً أنه ما قبل الهجمات على «أرامكو» ليس كما بعدها. هذا الاستهداف قد حرك مياه المفاوضات السياسية الراكدة لإيجاد حلّ للأزمة اليمنية، وقد تعيد إدارة عجلة المفاوضات لإنهاء الحرب بما يحفظ للسعودية هيبتها التي استنزفت بعد الضربات العسكرية الموجعة التي تلقتها مؤخراً، ويحقق لحركة «أنصار الله»، في الوقت ذاته، ما تريده في السياسة.

السعودية أدركت أنّ التصعيد الكبير من قبل أنصار الله يأتي في إطار التجاهل السعودي لدعوات الحوار والتفاوض، بُغية إيجاد مخارج مُشرّفة للجميع، وبما يحقن دماء أبناء اليمن. فالسعودية وطوال سنوات الحرب على اليمن، قد تجاهلت تماماً أيّ دعوات للحوار، إلى أن جاءت التحوّلات الاستراتيجية التي صنعها «أنصار الله»، وأجبرت السعودية على الرضوخ، خشية تفاقم الأوضاع والوصول إلى العمق السعودي، وسط عجز تامّ عن التصدّي لهجمات أنصار الله وطائراتهم المُسيّرة.

ولي العهد السعودي محمد بن سلمان قال في وقت سابق إنه سيستمرّ بالخيار العسكري حتى تنفيذ ما أسماه أهداف التحالف في اليمن، أما اليوم فبات يُطالب بإيجاد حلّ يُحقق السلام في اليمن. بين الخيارين يبدو أنّ ابن سلمان في مأزق حقيقي، وبصرف النظر عن رغباته بالبحث عن مخارج سياسية تُحقق السلام، فمن الواضح أنّ بنية التحالف السعودي قد أصابها الشرخ السياسي والعسكري، جراء ما أفرزته معادلة الردع التي حققها «أنصار الله»، فهذه الإمارات بدأت بتغيير مواقفها وإظهار نواياها بسحب قواتها من اليمن، وما تبع ذلك من مؤشرات حول عدم رضى السعوديين على فتح أيّ حوار مع إيران، إلا بالتنسيق معهم.

كلّ هذه المعُطيات، دفعت ابن سلمان إلى إحداث تغييرات جذرية في خطابه تجاه اليمن، ومن هنا باتت المؤشرات كثيرة على رغبته في إنهاء الحرب، خاصة بعدما تردّد أنّ بعض أفراد العائلة المالكة ونخبة رجال الأعمال في السعودية عبّروا عن إحباطهم منه، في أعقاب أكبر هجوم على «أرامكو».

في هذا الإطار، نقلت وكالة «رويترز»، عن دبلوماسي أجنبي رفيع المستوى وخمسة مصادر تربطها علاقات مع العائلة المالكة ونخبة رجال الأعمال، قولهم إنّ ما جرى أثار قلقاً وسط عدد من الفروع البارزة لعائلة آل سعود، بشأن قدرة ولي العهد على الدفاع عن البلاد.

وقال أحد المصادر «ثمة حالة استياء شديد من قيادة ولي العهد. كيف لم يتمكّنوا من رصد الهجوم؟»

وبالتالي فقد تسارعت المشاورات بين أطراف النزاع في اليمن، ولعلّ الدعوة التي حملها المبعوث الأممي إلى اليمن مارتن غريفيث، إلى زعيم «أنصار الله» السيد عبد الملك الحوثي، والتي تتضمّن دعوة إلى التهدئة مع السعودية، تُعدّ ترجمة واضحة لرغبات ابن سلمان بإيقاف الحرب والبحث عن حلول سياسية توافقية. «أنصار الله» قابلوا هذه الدعوة بإيجابية، شريطة أن تلتزم الرياض بما أبدته لجهة إيقاف الحرب. وبالإضافة إلى ذلك جاء الحراك الدولي الداعم لمبادرة صنعاء ليتزامن مع تغيير في اللهجة السعودية، ما يوحى بأنّ هناك جدية أكبر هذه المرة في التعامل مع الملف من كلّ الأطراف المعنية.

في المحصّلة، الواضح مما سبق انّ واشنطن ترغب أيضاً بإنهاء الحرب في اليمن، وفصل الملف اليمني عن الموضوع الإيراني. هذه الرؤية ربما دفعت واشنطن للضغط على ابن سلمان بُغية التفرّغ الكامل لإيران في المنطقة، وفي جانب آخر، يتمّ تبريد الملف اليمني وبالتالي يتمّ استثماره سياسياً من قبل ترامب في الانتخابات المقبلة.

وعليه، فإنّ حاجة واشنطن والرياض معاً، لتهدئة الملف اليمني وإيجاد مخارج من المستنقع اليمني، يُعدّ ورقة رابحة لواشنطن والرياض، لكن الحقيقة الواضحة، أنّ «أنصار الله» قد فرضوا معادلات سياسية وعسكرية لا يمكن كسرها، فالرياض أُرهقت عسكرياً وبشرياً، خاصة انّ عملية «نصر من الله» أحدثت فارقاً استراتيجياً في الكثير من المسارات، وأماطت اللثام عن تهاوي قدرة الجيش السعودي وتحالفه العربي. وكذلك ترامب الباحث عن أيّ ورقة سياسية رابحة في ظلّ فقدانه الأوراق تباعاً في الملف السوري. من هنا ستكون الأيام المقبلة مليئة بالتطورات السياسية والتي لن تخلوَ من عبث عسكري سعودي محدود، بُغية البقاء في مشهد الحلول اليمنية الآتية…

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Saudi Prisons and Courts: Is There Anything More Unjust?

Saudi Prisons and Courts: Is There Anything More Unjust?

By Latifa al-Husseini

Beirut – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is continuing his clampdown on every voice of dissent. It makes no difference whether power lies in his hands or those of his father, King Salman. He changed, deposed and imprisoned whoever he wanted. Things are done according to his will. He kills, buys or sells. He exercises control over whatever he wants. There is no obstacle blocking his way. Bin Salman’s policy of tyranny is evident across all of the kingdom’s internal matters. His behavior does not recognize the rights, opinions and demands of others. And for that reason, he believed there is simply no need for anyone to speak up. Therefore, the best solution is to silence and liquidate them.

Arrests and executions on the rise

When it comes to basic freedoms in the Kingdom, the situation is only getting more complicated. Activists have long complained of harassment and persecution. But the reign of Salman bin Abdul Aziz, which began four years ago, witnessed a sharp rise in the percentage of executions and unfair trials of prisoners of conscience, religious clerics and those taking part in peaceful movements. This is contrary to Bin Salman’s claims of reform that he made after the overthrow of former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in 2017.

This year alone, there have been 164 executions so far, and arbitrary arrests have exceeded dozens. The scale of these executions suggests that there is no decline in unfair liquidations. In 2016, the Kingdom executed 153 citizens who were denied fair trials. In 2017, more than 100 detainees were executed, and hundreds of clerics, academics and writers were jailed. In 2018, authorities arrested and tortured dozens of female and other human rights activists.

Organized crimes are committed on the orders of the higher-ups. In 2015, these officials opened the doors of employment for those wishing to join its team of executioners. The security services report directly to the crown prince’s office. At the forefront of the security services is the State Security, which has been charged with arrest campaigns against political, social, and human rights activists from different currents in addition to the princes belonging to the ruling family who may pose a potential threat to Bin Salman. Also, in the crosshairs are tribal elders and businessmen who have had their significant wealth confiscated by the authorities.

In the absence of international accountability, Bin Salman’s apparatuses are moving towards more repression and tyranny. Information from within the Kingdom reflects a dark atmosphere. There are no resolutions, but rather a deepening crisis.

A prominent Saudi lawyer, Taha al-Hajji, spoke to Al-Ahed News Website about the very poor human rights situation, which appears to lack even the slightest glimmer of hope. Al-Hajji says that the Saudi judiciary usually does not announce its intention to execute prisoners. Instead it accumulates the number of prisoners it plans to put to death and then carries out mass executions. These often coincide with political developments in the region, especially those concerning Iran.

Indications that new executions are imminent & those most at risk

In light of recent reports that the authorities are preparing to execute a number of detainees, al-Hajji points to heightened activity on the part of the judiciary in the past weeks. It is speeding up trials and rushing hearings. Whereas before they were only held every two months. This indicates that authorities are striving to achieve a goal, especially since the Saudi judiciary has never held back-to-back hearings in this manner.

Al-Hajji’s remarks back reports circulating about sessions held by the specialized criminal court in the past two weeks for a number of preachers, most notably Salman Al-Odah and Safar Al-Hawali. Al-Hajji’s hypothesis is that the Saudi regime is preparing for a new batch of mass executions. He points to a long list of political prisoners and explains that their conditions vary judicially. Some are appearing before the appeals court and others before the Supreme Court. There are some detainees whose cases are still new, and no judgment has been issued. However, the prosecution is requesting the death penalty (it submits its application to the court and the court then decides).

According to al-Hajji’s data, the number of death sentences in Saudi Arabia is much higher than published. He warns that the detainees most at risk of execution are Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Daoud al-Marhoun, who face old sentences that came into force but were stopped due to international pressure.

Mock trials and violations of prisoners’ rights

Those who keep up with the human rights situation in the Kingdom would notice that the detainees who appear in court are not granted fair trials, and that the judiciary does not listen to them or their representatives. Due to his experience with the Al-Saud courts for many years, Al-Hajji asserts that it is difficult to figure out who is being sentenced to death. The authorities make these rulings public through state-run media, which announces that death sentences were handed down, but they do not name the defendants.

However, their common denominator is that they were all accused of crimes stemming from participation in the political movement.

Al-Hajji, who left the kingdom after getting fed-up of the Saudi judiciary’s persecution of prisoners, explains that some judgments are issued before the indictment is made, especially when it comes to detainees who participated in demonstrations and what the authorities consider inciting public opinion against the regime.

“The trials of political detainees take place in the specialized criminal court, which is dedicated to terrorism and state security cases. This gives a clear picture of how the regime treats the peaceful demonstrator,” he adds.

According to al-Hajji, the features of the mock trials resemble those of real ones: an accused, a lawyer, a prosecution and a hearing. Up to this point, everything appears normal. But the reality is different. What takes place in the courtroom is nothing but a skit in which the case is over before it even begins. Moreover, sentences are often accompanied by confessions referred to as legal confessions that are extracted under torture.

The file is submitted to the judge only after the detainee has been forced to sign the confessions the authorities want. The judge only has to ask, “Is this your signature?” Then, the case is closed. The presumed “defendant” does not know what he signed and is later returned to solitary confinement and abused.

Al-Hajji points out that he always challenged the confessions on which the court bases its ruling, in an attempt to prove that they were extracted under duress and torture in order to underscore its invalidity. But the court does not take the challenge seriously.

He evokes his bitter experience with the judiciary saying, “I always demanded video footage during the interrogation and medical reports proving that the detainee had been tortured, but the court does not oblige the prosecution on this matter and completely ignores it.”

Violations of the rights of the detainees are never ending. The court does not allow a prisoner to appoint a lawyer until after the case begins in court. Accordingly, he is forbidden to communicate with his family during the investigation period. To make matters worse, it may take more than a year after being arrested to bring the accused to court. Sometimes the case is brought to the court of terrorism and then referred the same day to the criminal court, al-Hajji stresses.

Since the kingdom’s judiciary lacks integrity and credibility, Al-Hajji decided years ago to boycott the Saudi courts, after it became clear that the lawyer is only an ‘extra on set’, serving the authority and whitewashing its performance before the Western media. And the detainee never benefits from him.

The pain of those forgotten in prisons

Al-Hajji describes prison conditions as tragic. According to his previous observations and what is happening today, it is another world in detention, one not even seen in the movies. It is a strange wild world. And yet the authority carries out a huge media campaign to polish its image and the image of its prisons. The latest of which was shown on National Day when a large number of celebrities entered the prisons to praise the services there.

“The buildings are modern and well-equipped, but what about the torture chambers and solitary cells? These are violations in the dozens,” Al-Hajji says. “Mrs. Nassima Al-Sadah has been in solitary confinement for more than a year now. While it has been leaked that Loujain Al-Hathloul has been subjected to horrific forms of torture and harassment. There are some detainees who were imprisoned and were only set free after being murdered.”

Al-Hajji asserts that all those who enter prison are subjected to particularly harsh treatment during the first interrogation period. He points out that Shia political detainees are banned from practicing their religious rites and so are some books.

Al-Hajji draws a clear distinction in the way terrorist prisoners from Al-Qaeda and ISIS are treated. They are subjected to counseling programs, imprisoned for a few months, then released and given in-kind and material gifts in spite of their heinous crimes.

“This program does not include Shia detainees or prisoners of conscience. The authorities tried to say that they do it with them. However, the truth shows that it is carried out only at the end of the term that prisoners of conscience are serving, that is, before the prisoner is finally released. This means that none of the Shia detainees had been released before completing the sentence. They are not subjected to the counseling program at all. And this applies to the Sunni prisoners of conscience,” he adds.

The tragic situation of the detainees under Mohammed bin Salman’s reign worsened despite claims of reform. This grim picture prompts al-Hajji to predict new atrocities on the part of the authorities, especially since activists abroad are being chased and their families inside the Kingdom are being put under great pressure, where no dissident or opposition figure is free.

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