New York, January 2, 2016 (SSNA) — A Sudanese journalist has been detained for more than a month without charge in Saudi Arabia, according to news reports. Waleed al-Hussein al-Dood could face deportation to Sudan, where he is at risk of arrest and abuse by security forces who have threatened his life, according to statements by his family to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
"We are extremely concerned for Waleed al-Hussein al-Dood’s safety should he be forced to return to Sudan," CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour, said from Washington. "Al-Dood has a right to be granted access to his lawyer and should know the reasons of his arrest."
Al-Dood, founder of the independent news website Al-Rakoba, was arrested from his home in the eastern Saudi city of Al-Khobar on July 23, according to a statement by Al-Rakoba and his brother, Hussein al-Hussein, who spoke to CPJ. Saudi security agents confiscated the journalist’s laptop and passport and did not provide an explanation for the arrest or disclose any charges against him.
Al-Dood is being held in Ma’aloumat Prison in the city of Dammam, near al-Khobar. He has been denied access to his lawyer, his brother said.
Al-Dood told his wife, who last visited him in prison on Monday, that Saudi authorities had told him he would be deported to Sudan, according to the journalist’s brother. Al-Hussein told CPJ that as far as he knows, no formal deportation order has been issued.
Al-Dood, a Sudanese citizen, has lived in Saudi Arabia for 15 years, his brother said. Al-Hussein and Al-Rakoba said al-Dood is a legal resident of Saudi Arabia and that his paperwork was in order. CPJ’s calls and emails to the Saudi embassy in Washington for comment about the case were not immediately answered.
Al-Dood founded Al-Rakoba in 2005. The website, which is critical of the Sudanese government and covers issues such as government corruption and human rights abuses, publishes reports and editorials from Sudanese and international contributors. Sudanese authorities have several times blocked domestic access to Al-Rakoba over the years, according to al-Hussein and CPJ research.
Al-Hussein told CPJ that agents of the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) have threatened al-Dood for years. Al-Hussein said that NISS agents had told him that they would kill the journalist "if they get hold of him." He told CPJ that al-Dood had also received threatening messages directly from the NISS. The last time al-Dood was in Sudan was in 2008, for his wedding, but he had to cut his trip short and leave because of threats from security forces, his brother said.
Al-Dood’s wife gave birth two weeks ago while al-Dood was in jail, and has been unable to issue a birth certificate for the child without al-Dood’s presence or his identification papers.