Fresh evidence has emerged of torture and sexual abuse against political prisoners in Saudi Arabia said to include sexual threats, electric shocks, beatings, and lashings.
A Saudi prison guard at Dhabhan prison, to the north of Jeddah, blew the whistle to Human Rights Watch on the appalling treatment meted out on prisoners, especially women.
The guard, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that one woman was tortured to such an extent that they thought she had died – leading to her tormentors fearing that they would be blamed for her death, against orders not to kill prisoners.
High-profile women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is among prisoners reportedly mistreated in Saudi Arabia, with the guard stating that she faced “unprecedented” levels of sexual abuse while in detention. She is said to have faced repeated groping and molestation from prison officers, who also mocked her for being “liberated”.
Hathloul was sentenced to prison for five years and eight months in December but was released in February due to the sentence being part-suspended and that she had served much of her time detained before trial.
Her detention and trial drew widespread condemnation from human rights campaigners worldwide.
She is currently on probation and banned from leaving Saudi Arabia for five years. In late December, a Saudi court handed a prison term of five years and eight months for terrorism-related crimes, but the partially suspended sentence paved the way for her early release in February.
Hathloul was released on probation and is banned from leaving the kingdom for five years.
The guard’s testimony is the latest evidence of widespread abuse and torture in Saudi prisons, especially of political prisoners.
Since the ascension of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to de facto power in the kingdom in 2017, authorities have cracked down on political dissent, which can mean anything from criticising the government to backing campaigns for women’s rights.