In a report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Sunday, it was claimed that the children of former Saudi intelligence official, Saad al-Jabri, were imprisoned as part of Saudi efforts to force the ex-official to return to the Kingdom.
Omar al-Jabri and Saraj al-Jabri were accused by Saudi authorities in September 2020 following their father bringing a suit against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the US Federal Court under the Torture Victim Protection Act. The Crown Prince was accused of sending a hit squad to kill al-Jabri in Canada, in 2018.
Stating that the siblings were arrested in March 2020 and held in incommunicado until January 2021, HRW defined the actions of Saudi authorities against the children as a form of collective punishment, which includes arbitrary travel bans, incommunicado detention, and secret appeal hearings. According to the report, the siblings were not allowed to meet their lawyer or family members even during their trial.
Omar and Sarah al-Jabri were sentenced to nine years and six-and-a-half years imprisonment, respectively, for “money laundering” and “attempting to escape” Saudi Arabia by a Saudi court in November 2020. Their sentences were approved in a secret hearing, which neither they nor their lawyers or parents were present in December 2020, the HRW report indicated.
Speaking upon the issue, Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said, “The treatment of Omar and Sarah al-Jabri demonstrates the lengths to which Saudi Arabia is willing to go to pressure people who refuse to fall in line.”
Defining the al-Jabri siblings case as a “shame” for Saudi Arabia’s attempts to make reforms in the criminal justice system, Page noted, “There remains a long way to go before the Saudi justice system can credibly carry its own name.”
Sources familiar with the issue stated that Saudi authorities had targeted Omar and Sarah since 2017. In June 2017, they were prevented from traveling to the US, where they would have continued their schooling, on the ground of “security reasons.” Saudi authorities froze the siblings’ bank accounts in late 2017 and questioned them separately about their father’s activities.
Last year, concerns regarding the fate of al-Jabri’s children were also raised by four US senators in a joint letter addressed to former US President Donald Trump, calling him to take steps to ensure their release.