Saudi authorities Tuesday reportedly arrested prominent human rights activist Samar Badawi, the wife of jailed human rights campaigner Waleed Abu al-Khair, for allegedly managing a Twitter account calling for the release of her husband. The incident has sparked anger, with rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch calling for the immediate release of Badawi.
Samar Badawi, who is also the sister of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, was arrested in Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jeddah and taken to a police station along with her 2-year-old daughter Joud, Amnesty International said, in a press release. The non-profit group added that after questioning, Samar was sent to prison and is expected to appear before a prosecutor later Wednesday. However, Saudi officials have not publicly commented on the issue, BBC reported.
“Samar Badawi’s arrest today is yet another alarming setback for human rights in Saudi Arabia and demonstrates the extreme lengths to which the authorities are prepared to go in their relentless campaign to harass and intimidate human rights defenders into silent submission,” Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty, said in the statement.
Samar’s husband Abu al-Khair — founder of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia group — was reportedly jailed for 15 years for "undermining the regime" in 2014. The same year, her brother, Raif, was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam.
Raif's wife, Ensaf Haidar, took to her Twitter account Tuesday to report about her sister-in-law’s arrest.
— Ensaf haidar (@miss9afi) January 12, 2016
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of the Human Rights Watch, also released a statement late Tuesday, calling for Samar’s immediate release.
“The detention of Samar Badawi shows once again Saudi Arabia’s determination to silence those with the courage to speak out for human rights and reform,” Whitson said. “King Salman should call a halt to this repression and end the authorities’ incessant harassment of peaceful pro-reform advocacy.
“Saudi Arabia’s continuing repression of peaceful human rights activists makes a mockery of its membership of the UN Human Rights Council, whose members are expected to promote and protect the very rights that the Saudi authorities are trampling underfoot,” Whitson added.
Samar’s alleged arrest comes just weeks after Saudi Arabia executed 47 people, including prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, leading to widespread protests.