RIYADH (Middle East Eye) – Saudi authorities should immediately release the imprisoned children of a former Saudi official following an unfair trial that took place in an apparent effort to coerce him to return to Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.
Omar al-Jabri, 23, and Sarah al-Jabri, 21, the children of Saad al-Jabri, a former top Saudi spy agency official, were arrested in March 2020 and held incommunicado until January 2021.
Saudi authorities brought charges against the siblings in September 2020, a month after their father sued Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the U.S. Federal Court under the Torture Victim Protection Act, alleging that the crown prince had sent a hit squad to murder him in Canada in 2018.
Following their arrests and during their trial, Saudi authorities held the siblings incommunicado, preventing them from meeting their lawyer or speaking with family members. The authorities have also detained up to 40 other Jabri family members and associates, who remain in detention, informed sources said.
“The treatment of Omar and Sarah al-Jabri demonstrates the lengths to which Saudi Arabia is willing to go to pressure people who refuse to fall in line,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW.
“Detaining, imposing arbitrary travel bans, and railroading at trial two young people solely to create leverage against their father is collective punishment that demands accountability and justice.”
A Saudi court in November 2020 sentenced Omar and Sarah al-Jabri to nine years and six-and-a-half years in prison respectively, for “money laundering” and “attempting to escape” Saudi Arabia.
In December 2020, an appeals court upheld their sentences in a secret hearing at which they were not present, according to HRW. Neither they nor their lawyer or other family members have been formally presented with the final court verdict detailing the reasons behind the initial judgment or the appeal decision.
HRW has reviewed a series of court documents, text messages and other data-x-items related to Saudi authorities’ targeting of Jabri and his children and interviewed another family member by phone in June, according to the rights group.