Rights group voices concern over fate of forcibly disappeared Saudi economist

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Prominent dissident Saudi economist and academic, Hamza bin Muhammad al-Salem (Photo via Twitter)

A human rights organization has expressed serious concern over the fate of a prominent Saudi economist and academic, who has been forcibly disappeared by authorities in the kingdom because of his activities and positions critical of the Riyadh regime.

Together for Justice said in a statement on Monday that Hamza bin Muhammad al-Salem has not been seen in public for more than a year, and his Twitter account has been inactive since last November.

The human rights organization said Saudi officials refuse to disclose anything about Salem's fate, raising concerns about his safety and life, especially as the Riyadh regime continues its brutal crackdown on pro-democracy activists, human rights campaigners and opposition figures.

Together for Justice further stressed that Salem has neither insulted the Saudi government nor any officials, but has only expressed his views and exercised his legitimate right to freedom of expression.

“We express our full support for Saudi citizens’ right to express their views freely and safely without fear of persecution,” the statement read.

The human rights organization called on relevant UN agencies to intervene immediately and put pressure on Saudi officials to release Salem and all those who have been forcibly disappeared in the country.

Salem has been missing since November 12, 2020, amid reports of his arrest by Saudi officials.

He is known for his criticism of the Saudi government’s economic policies, particularly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s so-called Vision 2030, which is supposed to transform the kingdom by weaning it off oil. 

Salem holds a doctorate and used to teach at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh.

He is known for his extensive experience in Islamic economics, fundamentals of sale, and Islamic economic concepts.

Ever since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has ramped up arrests of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

Muslim scholars have been executed and women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured as freedoms of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied.

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