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Dozens of Jordanians jailed in Saudi Arabia without charge or justice

Families of the detainees say the Jordanian government is not doing enough to pressure the Saudi kingdom to release its citizens
Families of jailed Jordanians outside parliament demanding the government bring back its citizens held in Saudi Arabia. (Mohammad Ersan)
By in
Amman

Sophia clutches a picture of her son while she waits in the sun outside the walls of the Jordanian parliament. Nabil Saifi has been detained in prison by Saudi authorities for 284 days without being charged.

Sophia says that Saifi, 40, used to work as a teacher at King Khalid University in Saudi Arabia, where he was born and has lived since.

In February 2018, Saudi security forces raided the Jordanian citizen’s home, beat him and took him to prison for no reason, according to his mother.

"I carry the phone and watch it daily. I don't sleep. Maybe he will call me from prison'

- Sophia, mother of Jordanian Saudi detainee Nabil Saifi

"What did my son do?" asked Sophia with tearful eyes. "I carry the phone and watch it daily. I don't sleep. Maybe he will call me from prison. He has only spoken to us twice during his detention."

Saifi’s wife, who also lives in Saudi Arabia, has visited him in prison, but his mother says the family's situation remains difficult.

“We are waiting for any official efforts to release him, so we sit in front of the House of Representatives. We held a sit-in in front of the Jordanian foreign ministry last October, but the ministry did nothing," Sophia said.

Saifi is one of 30 Jordanians detained by the Saudi authorities between February and October 2018 without being sentenced.

Family and friends of the detainees have tried to put pressure on the Jordanian authorities to take some action through sit-ins.

On Tuesday they held another sit-in in front of the House of Representatives to demand that the Jordanian government follow up on the status of political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

Ibrahim Bajes, the author of the book Endowment of Prisoners, has been held in al-Hayer prison in Riyadh for four months without being charged.

Bajes’s sister told MEE, "Our family does not know the charges against him, nor does he himself know why he was arrested. The last contact with Bajes was 80 days ago. He was not been brought to justice or prosecuted."

The detainee Mohammed Abu Rawaa, 48, is in a similar situation. His mother, Amina, has said that her son, a printmaker, was arrested in Dammam five months ago, without charge or trial.

Jordanian detainees in Saudi Arabia
A relative holds a photo of Jordanian detainee Mohammed Abu Rawaa on 26 November 2019 (Mohammad Ersan/MEE)

"We do not know where he is and what they want from him. He is the father of 12 children who are now suffering from the absence of the family's breadwinner,” she said.

Mohammed Ajouri, a 43-year-old software engineer, was arrested nearly eight months ago in Riyadh and still has not been charged.

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His brother Khaled has demanded that the Jordanian foreign ministry make greater efforts to get him released as the ministry did in the cases of Jordanian prisoners in Israeli jails.

"My brother has been held in administrative detention in Riyadh for months without knowing why," he said.

"We approached the Jordanian foreign ministry repeatedly but to no avail. Today we stand in front of the ministry in a sit-in to ask the Jordanian authorities to pay attention to this file."

The families of the detainees launched a campaign on social media last October titled, Detainees without Charges in Saudi Arabia, in which they published pictures and stories about the Jordanian political prisoners in the kingdom, calling on their government to intervene and bring them home to their families.

Aid over justice

Jordanian MP Moussa Hantash, who met protesters outside parliament on Tuesday, strongly disapproved of Saudi  Arabia's detention of Jordanian citizens without charge.

He told MEE that he visited the Saudi embassy with a parliamentary delegation a few weeks ago and met with the deputy head of the Saudi mission who promised to carry the case to the responsible authorities.

"I've been demanding to meet with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi for over a month, but without a response from the foreign ministry," Hantash added.

Jordan's foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that it was "in contact with the families of the detainees, visits and telephone contacts have been arranged. Jordanian missions abroad communicate with prisoners in different countries and organise them according to the laws of the country in which they are located."

Safadi said in parliament that the government is in touch with Saudi authorities on the matter.

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“[The Jordanian detainees] are interrogated under Saudi law,” he said.

Journalist Hilmi al-Asmar believes that there is a deliberate disregard within the Jordanian government for the detainees in Saudi Arabia, because of the potential of financial aid from the Saudi kingdom.

“There is financial aid in the future and this has affected the government's handling of this file. We have seen how the authorities intervened to release the detainees held by the Israeli occupation, but there is an official failure [in this case].”

He said more needs to be done by Jordan for its citizens that are languishing in Saudi prisons.

"The Jordanian foreign ministry must take action to release those Jordanians who have worked for years in Saudi Arabia, who are not affiliated with political parties, who work in charity," Asmar said.

"The Saudi authorities have even welcomed them and supported them, and the situation suddenly turned into arrest. Our government should hand over a protest note to the Saudi embassy."

MP Ibrahim Abu al-Sayyed told the protesters that Prime Minister Omar Razzaz has asked him to coordinate a meeting with the families of all political detainees being held in Saudi Arabia.

Another MP, Saleh al-Armouti, asked during a speech at the sit-in, "Is the Jordanian government unable to tell Saudi Arabia that this arrest is not permissible? Or summon the Saudi ambassador? It is not permissible to silence us.

"We will talk under the dome of parliament with the government on this file. This is an injustice and we will not stay silent.”