International PEN is seriously concerned about the detention of leading reformist and academic Professor Matrook Al-Faleh, who has been held without charge since May 19, 2008. The reason for his arrest is not known, although he reportedly may be held for his writings and activism in support of political prisoners in Saudi Arabia. PEN seeks details of any charges against him, and seeks assurances of his well-being. PEN calls for his immediate and unconditional release if detained in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, Professor Matrook Al-Faleh, one of Saudi Arabia’s leading reformists, is among dozens of political activists to have been arrested or subject to arbitrary travel bans in recent months. Human Rights Watch gives the following background to his arrest:

Saudi secret police arrested al-Faleh, a professor of political science at King Saud University in Riyadh, on May 19, 2008 at the university. 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.
Saudi officials have not charged al-Faleh with a crime, though the criminal procedure code adopted in 2002 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 evidence, if any exists, on which the Investigation and Public Prosecutions Bureau is holding him. He is being held in solitary confinement next to suspected militants at the secret police’s al-Ha’ir prison. Al-Faleh, denied the right to see his lawyers, started a hunger strike. 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. His lawyers, Ibrahim Mubaraki and Khalid al-Mutairi, still have not been allowed to visit him. 

Professor Al-Faleh was among 12 reformers tarrested 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 was a main case of International PEN. He was amnestied on August 9, 2005.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing serious concern about the arrest of Professor Matrook Al-Faleh, and seeking details of any charges against him;
  • Seeking assurances of his well-being, and urging that he is granted full access to his basic rights, including family visits and his lawyer;
  • Calling for his immediate and unconditional release if detained in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Send Your Letter To

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

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Saudi Arabia in your country if possible.

Please check with PEN if sending appeals after December 1, 2008: ftw[at]