Saudi authorities block contact with death row political prisoners

November 3, 2015

Image of Dawood al-Marhoon

Reports have emerged that the family of political prisoners facing execution in Saudi Arabia have been unable to make regular, scheduled calls with the prisoners, raising concerns over their wellbeing.

Ali Adubisi, the director of a Saudi human rights organisation in Europe who is assisting activist Sheikh Nimr and six other political prisoners, told Reprieve that Mr Nimr yesterday failed to make a regular weekly call – something which has never happened previously during over three years in prison.

Sheikh Nimr is facing beheading and crucifixion by the Saudi authorities over his involvement in political protests. Families of other political prisoners facing execution – including juveniles Ali al Nimr and Dawoud al Marhoon (pictured) – have also expressed concern over their recent inability to make contact with them.

The highly secretive nature of the Saudi justice system means that prisoners are usually executed without their families or lawyers receiving any prior warning – making the apparent block on communications by the Saudi authorities particularly concerning.

The news comes as the UK Government reveals that, despite cancelling a bid to provide services to the Saudi prisons system, discussions with the Saudi Government over judicial cooperation are still “ongoing.” Reprieve is calling on the Government to provide further details on what such cooperation involves, and what safeguards are in place to ensure that the UK will not be complicit in Saudi Arabi’s death penalty system.

Commenting, Kate Higham, caseworker at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: “The apparent blocking of contact between families and political prisoners is deeply concerning – especially since those facing execution include several people sentenced to death as children over their involvement in political protests. The Saudi authorities need to ensure that legal representatives and families have unfettered access to their clients and loved ones, in addition to reviewing and overturning these unjust sentences.”


Reprieve is an international human rights organization with offices in London and New York City. For more information, contact Reprieve’s press office:

UK: donald[dot] campbell [at] / +44 (0) 207 553 8140

US: katherine [dot] oshea [at] / +1 917 855 8064