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Arbitrary arrest of social media celebrity Abu al-Feda: Saudi Arabia invokes Coronavirus measures at the expense of freedom of expression

لقرائته بالعربية اضغط هنا

On 3 June 2020, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia arrested a Snapchat celebrity known as Abu al-Feda. The arrest came after he published a video clip of empty store shelves where he called on people to take only what they need. Al-Feda, a young man from the eastern Saudi city of Al-Ahsa, is famous for his simple and comical lifestyle, attracting many people by his popular style and dialect.

ESOHR believes that the arrest due to the publication of a video clip is an assault on freedom of opinion and expression, as wellas an exploitation of the measures taken by the government to combat the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in order to carry out violations, including arbitrary arrests. ESOHR had already observed an upsurge in frivolous arrests in the country, with the Saudi government using the pretext of spreading rumors, fear, and so on.

Meanwhile, former Al-Nassr International Football Club player, Fahd al-Herafy, was arrested for a tweet he posted on his Twitter account discussing the Ministry of Interior’s decisions regarding measures for the sports sector.

ESOHR has confirmed these arbitrary arrests and other practices, which emphasize repressive actionson multiple fronts, including the Coronavirus pandemic. In statements, several UN experts have stressed that some countries and security institutions may find that“the use of exceptional powers is attractive because it provides short cuts.” To prevent such excessive force from infiltrating into legal and political systems, these expertsnoted that “restrictions must be carefully designed and characterized by minimal interference to protect public health.”

ESOHR emphasizes that the Saudi government must free those arbitrarily detained for their opinions and must take steps to relieve the pressure on prisons amid the Corona pandemic. The government has resorted to campaigns of arbitrary arrest without any legal controls and in the complete absence of oversightof the workings of the security authorities, thus allowing them to carry out further violations unchecked.

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