Lawyers of two detained prominent Saudi activists said Tuesday that their clients refused to see them when they came to visit them in prison because the guards did not unshackle their hands and feet. Activists Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamed have been detained since Saturday after a court in Riyadh sentenced them to lengthy jail sentences and travel bans.
“We just came out of Malaz Prison and my clients have refused to meet us in chains,” lawyer Abdulaziz al-Hussan said on Twitter at 2:34pm local time. “Prison administrator refused to unchain them and asked us to bring an order from the governorate.”
Few hours later, the governorate spokesman released a statement denying the allegations that al-Qahtani and al-Hamed have had their hands and feet tied with metal shackles. “Riyadh Governorate would like to clarify that prison regulations do not state that such prisoners would be chained while they are inside the prison,” the statement said. The spokesman added that the prison administration has filed a complaint with the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution against lawyer Abdulaziz al-Hussan for allegedly spreading false information.
However, an account by Abdulaziz Al-Shubaily, a member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, appeared to contradict the official spokesperson’s statement and support what al-Hussan said earlier.
Al-Subaily posted to Twitter at 1:26pm that he has just visited al-Qahtani and al-Hamed in prison, saying he has never seen them in such high spirits. Two hours later, he posted a series of tweets talking about the visit. One tweet reads: “We were allowed in. We greeted them in the hallway where they were brought for the visit. They were smiling, their hands and feet shackled.” In the following tweets he mentioned parts of the conversation he had with them. According to al-Shubaily’s account of the visit, the two activists said they will not abandon their demands for reform and a constitutional monarchy.
Activists on Twitter expressed their support to lawyer Abdulaziz al-Hussan in the face of what they described as an attempt of intimidation. Twitter users used the hashtag “We are all Abdulaziz al-Hussan” to post about what happened to the lawyer. “Is it revenge because he defended al-Hamed and al-Qahtani?” asked independent journalist Turki Abdulhai.
“When the political targeting reaches lawyers that means we have hit rock bottom,” said and publisher Nawaf al-Qudaimi. “There is nothing lower than this.”