Saudi Political Scientist Matrouk al-Faleh Released without Charge
January 12, 2009
Matrouk al-Faleh, a 55-year-old Saudi political scientist and outspoken human rights advocate, was released from prison on January 10, 2009, after being held for more than seven months without charge. According to press accounts, a colleague visited Professor al-Faleh the day after his release and found him to be reasonably healthy and in good spirits.
On May 19, 2008, Matrouk al-Faleh was arrested by Saudi intelligence officials in his office at King Saud University where he is professor of political science. Although the Saudi authorities reportedly never publicly disclosed the reason for his arrest, it is believed to be related to an article he wrote and emailed to human rights activists and journalists two days before his arrest. The article criticized the harsh conditions of confinement in al-Buraida General Prison, where he had recently met with two imprisoned human rights activists for whom he was acting as legal representative—fellow academic Dr. Abdullah al-Hamid and Dr. al-Hamid’s brother, Isaa. Professor al-Faleh was considered to be a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
Throughout his eight months of detention in Alhayer Prison, Professor Faleh was held in solitary confinement without access to legal counsel; for the first two months he was refused family visits as well. According to his wife, Jamila al-Uqla, he went on a 20-day hunger strike following his arrest to protest the authorities’ refusal to give a reason for his detention. She reported that Professor al-Faleh lost more than 22 pounds. It is our understanding that he suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatism, and skin irritation and that he was denied medical attention during his detention.
The CHR first undertook Professor al-Faleh’s case in 2004 when he was imprisoned on charges of “sowing dissent” and “disobeying the ruler” after criticizing the newly created governmental National Commission on Human Rights for its lack of independence from the government and for signing a petition advocating the transformation of the Saudi kingdom into a constitutional monarchy. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but was granted a royal pardon after serving 18 months. For more detailed background about Professor al-Faleh’s case, please view his case summary.