November 10, 2008

Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz
Ministry of the Interior
P.O.Box 2933, Airport Road
Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 1185

Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard
His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud
Royal Court
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our serious concern regarding the ongoing detention without charge of writer and leading reformist academic Professor Matrook Al-Faleh.

According to our information, on May 19, 2008, Matrook Al-Faleh, a professor of political science at King Saud University in Riyadh, was arrested at the university by Saudi secret police. The arrest came two days after he publicly criticized conditions in Buraida prison following a visit to two fellow human rights activists being held there. For six days, the secret police denied holding him, and even after they acknowledged that he was in detention, officials allowed his family just one visit during the first 60 days. Al-Faleh has not been charged with a crime, though the Saudi criminal procedure code requires the authorities to charge detained suspects and take their statement within 48 hours. Officials have not interrogated him during his five months in prison, and Al-Faleh has not been allowed to see the supposed evidence on which the Investigation and Public Prosecutions Bureau is reportedly holding him. He is being held in solitary confinement next to suspected militants at the secret police’s al-Ha’ir prison. Al-Faleh went on hunger strike in protest of the denial of his right to see his lawyers. During that time, prison guards taunted him with food and also shined a bright light in his cell around the clock. He has since broken off his hunger strike, but his lawyers have still not been allowed to visit him. 

This is not the first time Professor Al-Faleh has been targeted for his critical views. He was among 12 reformers arrested in March 2004 after openly criticizing the slow pace of reform in the Kingdom. He was sentenced on May 15, 2005 to six years in prison, and amnestied on August 9, 2005.
PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Professor Matrook Al-Faleh is being detained in violation of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We therefore urge you to ensure that he is granted full access to his basic rights, including family visits and his lawyer, and respectfully call for his immediate and unconditional release.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Hannah Pakula                                              
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems       
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H. E. Adel A. Al-Jubeir
Ambassador of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037
Fax: (202) 944-5983

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