Public discontent is growing inside Saudi Arabia for many reasons, the most recent of which is the rising costs of living and dwindling revenues. The regime is worried by the change of administration in Washington and Trump’s policies that may have adverse effects on Saudi security and long-term existence. Tax-free living will soon be a thing of the past for Saudis after its cabinet on 30th January approved an IMF-backed value-added tax to be imposed across the Gulf following an oil slump. A 5% levy will apply to certain goods following an agreement with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council in June last year. Future US policies are likely to weaken the grip of the tribal oligarchs on countries of the GCC.
Despite the Saudi efforts to build bridges with US President, Donald Trump, there are mounting pressures on both Washington and London to stop supplying arms to the Saudis in their aggressive war on Yemen. In London two activists were detained when they entered the BAe Systems offices and attempted to stop arms shipments to Riyadh. The Rev Dan Woodhouse, a Methodist minister in Leeds and Sam Walton, a Quaker, are accused of entering the BAE Systems site in Warton to disarm planes. Scores of activists also picketed a meeting of arms dealers at the Grosvenor House in Central London. They called for food and medicine to the starving and sick Yemenis as the delegates were dining at the hotel.
Meanwhile a Saudi citizen has been killed in jail by regime’s torturers. Mohammad Reda AlHasawi, died last week in custody four years after he had been detained by the security forces. He was in good health and his family insisted he had been tortured to death. Several others died in custody as a result of similar abuse; Makki AlUrayyedh, Nazar AlMuhsin and Jabir AlUqaili. A seven-year prison sentence was issued last week against Saudi writer Nadhir Al-Majid, who was transferred to prison immediately after the sentencing. On 18 January 2017, the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh held its hearing in the presence of Al-Majid, who was sentenced to seven years imprisonment followed by seven years of a travel ban in addition to a fine. Reports have confirmed that the writer was alone during the hearing and not accompanied by his family or his lawyer. He was taken immediately after the verdict to Al-Ha'ir prison in Riyadh.
A young Bahraini youth is fighting for his life after he was hit by police using live ammunition. In the early hours of Thursday 26th January, scores of masked members of Alkhalifa Death Squads and security forces raided the town of Duraz brandishing their rifles and machine guns and were poised to kill. The natives challenged them using their fists and stones while they raided a house, smashing it to pieces and snatching several youths. Nothing has been heard of them since. The attacking criminals used live ammunition against civilians. A young man was hit in the head. Mustafa Hamdan, 27, went into coma and is believed to be clinically dead. His family accuse Alkhalifa killers of shooting their son.
In the week 23rd to 29th January the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has documented at least 44 arbitrary detentions including nine children and one woman. Only three of them were subsequently released. Alkhalifa kangaroo courts “tried” 14 native Bahrainis who received heavy prison sentences. There were at least 112 protests and demonstrations in 46 towns and villages. At least 23 of them were attacked by regime’s mercenaries and masked members of Death Squads using chemical and tear gases.
On 31st January Amnesty International (AI) issued the following about one of the Bahraini “disappeared”. Its statement says: Fadhel Sayed Abbas Hasan Radhi has been detained without charge since his arrest on 29 September 2016. He has had no access to a lawyer and only limited access to his family. His family have not heard from him since 10 December 2016 nor have they received any information about his whereabouts or well-being. Amnesty International is concerned that he is a victim of enforced disappearance and at risk of torture and other-ill treatment.
AI also raised the stakes about two native Bahrainis on death row. It issued an Urgent Action about the two men to save their lives. two bahraini Men at imminent risk of execution. It said: Mohamed Ramadhan ‘Issa ‘Ali Hussain and Hussain ‘Ali Moosa Hussain Mohamed, are at imminent risk of execution following the execution of three men on 15 January. Their death sentences were upheld by the Court of Cassation on 16 November 2015. Their trial was grossly unfair and relied on “confessions” extracted under torture. It asked people to write Alkhalifa officials: Urging the Bahraini authorities to commute all death sentences and establish an official moratorium on executions; and Urging them to order the full retrial of both men, that fully complies with international fair trial standards, which exclude the use of evidence obtained under torture, and promptly, adequately and effectively investigate their allegations of torture.