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Geneva-based rights council urges Saudi Arabia to stop crackdown on Palestinians

Families of Palestinians held in jails in Saudi Arabia hold placards in Arabic that some read, 'Release our sons in Saudi prisons,' and 'No for the policy of isolation and torture for the prisoners in Saudi jails' during a protest in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross office in Gaza City, October 16, 2019. (File photo by The Associated Press)

The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties (GCRL) has strongly denounced the continued detention and prosecution of Palestinian and Jordanian figures in Saudi Arabia over their suspected support for the Palestinian resistance movement, calling on Riyadh to immediately release them.

The council said in a statement that the majority of these prisoners were denied visits, kept in humiliating conditions, exposed to torture during investigation, and deprived of medical care.

The GCRL stressed that inmates, who had been detained for months on charges of suspected political activities, faced unfair trials that didn't meet international standards of fairness. 

The council described the trials as “secret and without normal legal periods” and said the accused were denied their right to defend themselves and were not allowed to appoint lawyers.

The GCRL also urged the UN to act urgently to stop flagrant human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, mainly arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and trials on charges related to freedom of opinion. It also called on the international community to put an end to these violations and make sure those responsible are held accountable.

“GCRL restates its call to stop these trials, release the detainees, ensure their protection, provide prompt medical treatment for the patients, as well as adequate compensation for the length of the detention to which they were subjected,” the statement read. 

Elsewhere in the statement, the council also censured a recent trial sessions, which was held at the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in early October.

Senior Hamas official Muhammad al-Khudari and his son Hani, who were arrested last April, were among those who stood trial. It was part of a mass trial of 68 individuals on trumped-up charges under the so-called counter-terror law.

“This second session for al-Khudari and his son came a day after a similar court session was held for six Jordanian and Palestinian detainees, under the anti-terrorism law, and neither of them had legal representation,” the GCRL said 

“These detainees are part of 68 Palestinians and Jordanians who were arrested by the Saudi authorities in February 2019, without legal grounds, and they have been subjected for months to enforced disappearance, inappropriate detention conditions, torture, and mistreatment,” the rights group said.

Al-Khudari represented Hamas in Saudi Arabia between the mid-1990s and 2003. He has held other important positions in the Palestinian resistance movement as well. He stepped down from this position years ago due to his illness and his old age.

Saudi authorities earlier this year launched a new campaign of "arbitrary" arrests against Palestinian expatriates on charges of supporting Hamas.

The Prisoners of Conscience, a non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced on February 12 that the kingdom had detained a number of Palestinians, including the relatives or children of those imprisoned last April for the same reason.

Over the past two years, Saudi authorities have deported more than 100 Palestinians from the kingdom, mostly on charges of “supporting Hamas financially, politically, or through social networking sites.”

Days ago, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged world states to vote against Saudi Arabia’s bid to take a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, stating that the ultra-conservative kingdom has committed “massive rights violations” both at home and abroad.

The New York-based group warned in a statement on Thursday that Saudi Arabia continues to target human rights campaigners and political dissidents, including women's rights activists, and others it has arbitrarily detained and prosecuted.

Relations between the Palestinians and Persian Gulf kingdoms have been declining for years as Saudi Arabia has started shifting the public discourse on Israel amid warming ties between the kingdom and the Tel Aviv regime.

The recent deal between Israel and the two Persian Gulf Arab countries of UAE and Bahrain on normalization of ties has already drawn strong condemnations from the Palestinians and the Muslim world.

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