Human RightsMiddle EastSaudi Arabia

‘Saud withholding bodies of 90 activists in violation of rights law’

Saudi Arabia is reportedly withholding the bodies of at least 90 activists, among them critics of the construction of a controversial megacity project on the kingdom’s Red Sea coast.

The Arabic-language Mirat al-Jazeera news website reported on Tuesday that the Riyadh regime refuses to hand over the bodies of the Saudi activists to their families.

The report did not give details on whether the activists had been killed by regime forces during protests or executed.

Among those whose bodies are being withheld is Abdul-Rahim al-Howeiti, who was shot dead by Saudi forces in the al-Khuraybah area of the northwestern Tabuk region earlier this month.

Howeiti regularly posted videos online, condemning the $500 billion Neom project  — a centerpiece of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious Vision 2030 economic plan — and the forced eviction of residents from the construction zone.

In one of his videos, the victim denounced as “state terrorism” the displacement of locals from the area, where the Howeitat tribe has lived for hundreds of years.

“People are being wiped out from their homes and people do not agree with what is happening at all. But the way in which the state has dealt with things can only be described as terrorism… state terrorism,” he said.

“I am against the forced removal of people. I don’t want to leave; I want to stay in my home. I do not want compensation, I don’t want anything. I only want my home,” the activist said. 

In another video, Howeiti documented his final moments before he was fatally shot, showing the area, from which his neighbors had been forcibly removed. 

He recorded footage from his roof showing dozens of Saudi forces, saying that “whoever refuses expulsion or signing, this is what they do to him”. One of the regime forces is heard replying to Howeiti, “No one is making you sign.” 

Saudi political activist Omar bin Abdulaziz described Howeiti as the “Martyr of Neom.”

The European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR) blasted Saudi Arabia for withholding bodies of activists, saying the practice violates international law and runs counter to Islamic teachings. 

The news comes days before the anniversary of the regime’s execution of 37 political activists, most of whom were with the kingdom’s Shia Muslim community.

The Riyadh regime reportedly refused to turn over at least 33 of the bodies, ignoring repeated pleas from the families and instead burying the corpses itself.

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