Saudi Activist Jailed Again After Brief Release

Saudi activist Mohammed al-Bajady has been re-imprisoned few days after he was released. A nephew of the activist said on Twitter that authorities called him at an early hour on Wednesday and he was told to bring al-Bajady back to al-Hair prison where the activist was jailed for over two years until he was suddenly released last week.

The circumstances of that release remain unclear. On August 6 the activist was taken from his cell “with no prior notice and let go to the street” without any personal belongings, according to messages posted to his Twitter account yesterday. Al-Bajady, sentenced in April 2012 to 4 years in jail, was not informed if his release was final or temporary.

Saudi authorities sometimes allow prisoners to leave jail on temporary basis to see family during Eid or attend funerals of relatives. In such cases, guarantors of the prisoner, usually members of his family, must sign pledges promising to bring the prisoner back to jail when the temporary release is over.

Nine days after his release, the relatives of al-Bajady received calls from authorities asking them to bring him to al-Hair prison. “Someone said his Eid break was over,” his nephew Samer al-Bajady said on Twitter. “Others said he must come to sign some papers.” Samer added that the papers signed by the guarantors last week did not specify the period of the release and the activist was not informed of his status upon being freed.

Al-Bajady traveled from his hometown in Qassim to al-Hair prison in Riyadh on Wednesday, and he was accompanied by his nephew and two fellow activists. The companions were later told to leave and al-Bajady appears to have been re-imprisoned.

The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), of which al-Bajady is a founding member, released a statement condemning what they described as “harassment against its members in the prisons of Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister.”

“If the goal of suddenly releasing Mohammed al-Bajady then arresting him again is to break him psychologically or damage his morale, we affirm that this mission has failed,” ACPRA said. “Two and half years in al-Hair did not affect him, failed to remove the smile from his face and increased his popularity and people’s respect of him.”

Abdullah al-Hamed and Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani, two founding members of ACPRA, were sentenced last March to lengthy jail sentenced and travel bans after being found guilty of crimes such as founding an unlicensed human rights organization, seeking to disrupt security and inciting disorder, undermining national unity, breaking allegiance to the ruler, disobeying the ruler and questioning the integrity of officials. Following the sentences, other members of the organization were investigated, put on trial and jailed.

During his brief period of freedom that lasted for 9 days al-Bajady, a father of two, spent time with his family and received visitors from across the kingdom, including popular preacher Salman al-Oudah. The activist also used his Twitter account, now controlled by friend after the re-imprisonment, to talk about his jail experience and criticize the Saudi government.

“My daughter Lara asks me: ‘Dad, why do they imprison you’” al-Bajady said on August 8. “Does any of you have a good answer for this 10-year-old girl?”