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Media watchdog says Saudi Arabia detained Sudanese website administrator

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September 1, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – Saudi authorities have arrested the administrator of a Sudanese opposition website and continues to hold him without charges, a media watchdog said in a statement today.

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Al-Rakoba website logo

The Sudanese non-governmental Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) network said that Walid Hussein al-Dood was taken by security agents on July 23rd from his home in the city of al-Khobar and was transferred to the city of Dammam.

JHR strongly warned of the consequences of his possible extradition to Khartoum on charges of running al-Rakoba website.

The statement by JHR said that al-Dood’s wife visited him three times with the most recent one being on Monday.

Al-Dood told his family that he is being well-treated and that his immigration status is not in question.

However, the statement did not say why he is being held and if he was formally notified of a pending extradition request by Khartoum.

Al-Rakoba started off in 2005 as a discussion forum but has eventually transformed into a news website that carries stories and op-eds that are fiercely critical of the Sudanese government.

The website has attracted wide readership even inside Sudan despite intermittent government moves to block it.

In statements attributed to al-Dood before his arrest he asserted that al-Rakoba maintains “clear positions against dictatorship and corruption .. and has attracted the finest readers and columnists who value human freedom, human rights and equality”.

JHR said it is concerned that al-Dood would be subject to torture should he be extradited to Sudan and vowed to launch a campaign to prevent this.

Relations between Riyadh and Khartoum have improved dramatically this year after the latter shifted its alliance from the Iranian axis.

Sudan is also a member of the Saudi-led military coalition against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

But it remains to be seen whether al-Dood’s detention is politically motivated and whether Riyadh could actually send him back to his home country.

In 2005, the interior ministers of Saudi Arabia and Sudan signed a security pact in Khartoum which included clauses related to preventing any activities by residents or citizens on their territories that are hostile to the government of the other side.

Saudi Arabia is generally very sensitive to any foreign political activities on its territory.

In 2011, the Saudi government issued a decree banning any events of political nature without prior permission and warned of consequences to foreign nationals for violating this order which included deportation.

A Saudi foreign ministry cable released by Wikileaks website last June revealed that Riyadh summoned Sudanese opposition figures and embassy officials alike to caution them against non-sanctioned political activities in the country unless an official permit is received.

Al-Rakoba is a US registered website however and has no physical offices in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the world.

(ST)

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