The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

"The dogs of Ibn Saud"

In what I assume is a response to Monday's broadcast on Saudi television about the five star treatment inside Saudi penitentiaries, I found this statement on a Saudi Islamist message board today. It is purportedly from prisoners in Alisha Prison in Saudi Arabia, and was posted to Al Qalaa Web site by a group or an individual, called "The Beast of the Peninsula" (Wihish Al Gezira). Here is a partial and very rough translation of their complaints about the conditions inside a Saudi prison, which they say is filled with "oppression, torture, and terror":

- Sleep deprivation for periods of up 10 to 20 days.
- Prolonged detentions without any investigation, or knowing why they were arrested, or what the charges are against them.
- Forcing prisoners to confess to crimes that they have no connection to, and that there is no evidence of, or any witnesses to. Confessions are extracted under the threat or practice of psychological and physical torture, sleep deprivation, denying visitation rights, or any communications with the outside for months and sometimes over a year.
- Interrogating the wives of wanted men without her male custodian being present, and using bad manners and behavior with them.
- Being beaten, and insulted with dirty words, being bound and blindfolded for upwards of two weeks and not even being allowed to go to the bathroom or pray.
- Putting prisoners in a black box 1.85 m x .90 m, bound and blindfolded, forbidden to say a word. Sleep deprivation to the point of insanity where people actually have had to be transported to the hospital as a result. Some people have spent nearly a year in these cages in order to force confessions.
- Cameras on the prisoners 24 hours a day.
- Bad lighting which hurts the eyesight and causes depression.
- Prisoners in bad health are deprived medical attention.
- No change of clothes or bed linens for long periods of time.
- The prisoner does not get any of his requests no matter how minor unless he carries out prolonged hunger strikes and sit-ins, and then come only empty promises.
- If the prisoner asks to have his case reviewed, or requests to contact his family, he is insulted and intimidated.
- Inmates are terrified with random transfers to other prisons and solitary confinement.

Prisoner Demands:
- Taking action on our cases that have stagnated for a long time without any judicial rulings.
- Allowing us to contact our families to inform them that we are in prison so they can stop worrying, and to allow visits.
- Improve the living and health conditions of the prisoners, and better treatment of the prisoners.
- The investigation of those who have not had their cases examined, and no longer ignoring them in a cell without any access to legal procedures.

A follow-up comment on the same message board reads: "The prisoners of Tel Aviv are better off and there is more concern for them than the dogs of Ibn Saud."