A man jailed for drug offenses in Saudi Arabia fears he will be ‘put to the sword’ next, his sister says, after the regime scrapped its supposed ‘moratorium’ on executing people jailed for such crimes.
Hussain Abu al-Khair was arrested in 2014 while driving his taxi across the border from his native Jordan, after border authorities allegedly found 200,000 tablets of Captagon – a commonly used stimulant in the Middle East. Orient – in his vehicle.
The father-of-eight was allegedly taken to a black site for 13 days and tortured into falsely confessing to the crime, in which rights groups claim he was an unwitting drug mule. Although he told the judge the nature of his confession, he was sentenced to death in 2015. The verdict was reportedly overturned by the Supreme Court, but again overturned in 2017 after government intervention.
A year later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in his attempt to appear as a reformer, claimed he was trying to end capital punishment for some offenders, and in 2021 the Human Rights Commission man (HRC) led by the government insisted that a “moratorium” on drug-related death sentences was responsible for a sharp drop in executions.
But rights groups were skeptical and said the 85% drop in executions claimed by the regime in 2020 was partly due to coronavirus restrictions, as has also happened in other countries where the capital punishment is legal.
Last month, those fears were vindicated without warning as Saudi Arabia executed 17 people accused of drug and smuggling offenses over a 12-day period, according to the United Nations – marking a record year for beheadings in the kingdom, spurred on by the country’s largest mass. execution in decades.
A few days later, Mr Abu al Khair allegedly told his sister that he had been transferred to the execution section of his prison and that two men had been taken from his cell the previous day to be executed.
As guards warned him he would be executed sooner if he spoke to the media, he urged her to speak up about her case, she reportedly said, adding, “How can you be a prince who preparing to become king and you’re making promises to the media and doing something else in the shadows?
Mr. Abu al-Khair’s sister, Zainab, 61, who lives in Canada, told the DailyMirror this week: “My brother lives with great fear for his life… Every moment he expects it to be his turn as our whole family is forced to live in fear, sadness and anxiety .”
The Jordanian national, born in 1965, is “surrounded by the dead on all sides”, his sister said, adding: “It’s psychological torture because he doesn’t know when they’re going to cut off his head.”
His eight children, who live in Jordan, are in ‘misery’ because of the absence of their father, who previously ‘was always smiling, loved life and told jokes’ and enjoyed music, singing and sports , according to his sister.
But after eight years in detention without access to a doctor, the UN Human Rights Council has been told that Mr Abu al-Khair is now nearly blind and likely suffers from ‘death row syndrome’ , a psychological impairment seen in people facing execution.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention alleged that Mr Abu al-Khair was tortured before signing a confession and was denied access to a lawyer.
The body said Saudi Arabia may have breached its obligations under international human rights agreements and urged the regime to quash Mr Abu al-Khair’s death sentence, release him immediately and unconditionally. and to ensure that he receives medical treatment.
In its 30-year existence, the UN task force found that Saudi Arabia violated its international human rights obligations in more than 65 cases, indicating a widespread or systemic problem of arbitrary detention in Saudi Arabia that may amount to crimes against humanity, the body told me.
The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights alleged this month that dozens of inmates are on death row for drug-related offenses in Saudi Arabia, and warned that the resumption of executions for such crimes would lead to an unprecedented increase in beheadings.