The Saudi Arabian authorities must immediately release and drop all charges against 10 Egyptian Nubian men who have been detained without charge for 16 months merely for trying to organize a remembrance event, Amnesty International said today. The organization is calling for their release ahead of their first hearing before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh on 10 November 2021.
“It is a travesty that the Saudi Arabian authorities have detained these Egyptian Nubian men without charge for nearly 16 months and are now prosecuting them for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression in trying to organize a community event,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy regional director.
“These men are long-term residents of Saudi Arabia and carry out remembrance events each year without repercussion. They should never have been detained in the first place and must be immediately released.”
“Not only are these men being detained unlawfully, they have also been denied regular family contact and only allowed access to government-appointed lawyers, while at least two of them are elderly and in ill health. The Saudi Arabian authorities must ensure that they have full access to medical care, lawyers of their choice and regular contact with their families.”
“The arrest and detention of these men represents yet another stain on Saudi Arabia’s already grim human rights record. Amnesty International calls on the Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience detained solely for peacefully demanding reforms and exercising their right to freedom of assembly.”
On 10 November, 10 Egyptian Nubian men are due to attend their first hearing before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), after having been detained for almost 16 months without charge. The Saudi General Directorate of Investigation (al-Mabahith) arrested the men on 14 July 2020 in relation to a cultural event they had planned on 25 October 2019 to mark the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
The men were first arrested on the morning of the event in October 2019. Saudi security officials criticized them for failing to include a photo of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the event’s announcement poster. On 25 December, after two months in detention without charge, the men were released on travel ban pending the case’s resumption.
On 14 July 2020, all 10 men were re-arrested and detained in al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh. In April 2021, they were transferred to Assir prison in Abha city, where they have been denied access to lawyers of their choosing and continue to be held without charge.
The ten detained Egyptian Nubian men are: Adel Ibrahim Faqir, Dr. Farjallah Ahmed Youssef, Jamal Abdullah Masri, Mohamed Fathallah Gomaa, Sayyed Hashem Shater, Ali Gomaa Ali Bahr, Saleh Gomaa Ahmed, Abdulsalam Gomaa Ali Bahr, Abdullah Gomaa Ali and Wael Ahmed Hassan Ishaq. All of the men are members of informal Nubian community associations.
The Nubians are a minority ethnic group in Egypt and Sudan and have been historically marginalized and discriminated against on the basis of their cultural, ethnic, and linguistic identity. For decades, Nubian associations have operated normally in Saudi Arabia, focusing strictly on cultural and social activities away from politics.
Since the early 2000s, Nubian activists’ demands for the return to their ancestral land and compensation accelerated. Article 236 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution stipulated for the first time the implementation of a comprehensive development plan for marginalized areas including Nubia, with the participation of local communities aiming to preserve their heritage. To that end, a coalition of 40 Nubian associations was formed in Riyadh in early 2020 to call on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to abide by Article 236 and allow the Nubians’ return to their homeland. After the establishment of the coalition, Saudi Arabian authorities arrested and detained the 10 Nubian men on the morning of the planned annual event in remembrance of Nubian soldiers who fought in the 6 October 1973 war. The event has taken place in previous years in Saudi Arabia without any reprisals against the community.