Babylon & Beyond

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SAUDI ARABIA: Activist on hunger strike

June 12, 2008 |  7:36 am

Matrouk More than 30 human rights groups across the Middle East have condemned Saudi Arabia for imprisoning a leading political activist who has reportedly been on a hunger strike since mid-May. The organizations have appealed to King Abdullah for the release of Matrouk Faleh, a university professor who has pushed for democratic reform in the ultraconservative Islamic state.

Faleh was arrested on May 19 after posting complaints on a website about living conditions in the Breidah Prison, where two other leading dissidents, Abdullah Hamid and his brother, Issa, are serving sentences.

The Saudi government “decided to punish Dr. Matrouk for his public criticism of the conditions of detention and to subject him to even more arbitrary measures by confiscating his personal laptop and mobile phone upon his arrest, and, moreover, by inflicting further pressures and psychological torment,” according to a statement signed by human rights groups in Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan and other countries.

The statement continued that Faleh’s wife reported that “prison officials deliberately woke him after midnight claiming that he would be subject to interrogation, tied his hands and feet and tried to force him to eat after he had announced a food strike in protest against . . .his being detained without any notification of the charges against him.”

A political science professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, Faleh, a diabetic, has spent much time in Saudi courts and jails. He was granted a royal pardon in 2005 after being sentenced for up to nine years for demanding constitutional reforms and political freedoms. The Saudi government has not commented on his most recent case.

— Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo

Photo: Matrouk Faleh. Credit: