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Sheikh al-Jirani kidnapping: Unlimited number of suspects in mysterious crime

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On 13 December 2016, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah al-Jirani, a judge at the Endowments and Inheritance Circuit in Qatif, was kidnapped by masked men in front of his home in Tarout Island, and driven to an unknown location, according to official newspaper reports. On 19 December 2017, the Saudi Ministry of Interior announced that a body had been found and said that it belonged to al-Jarani.

ESOHR noted that the Saudi government has used this case to make allegations that raise suspicions about many individuals without transparent investigations or fair trials. In many cases, Saudi Arabia has made a habit of spreading accusations in the media before any investigation or trial proceedings have taken place. This is one of the features that highlights the marginalization of institutions that are supposed to be responsible for achieving justice.

At a news conference on 1 January 2017, Ministry of Interior security spokesman, Major General Mansour al-Turki, explained that the results of security investigations into the kidnapping incident led to the capture of three people involved in surveilling and following al-Jirani prior to his kidnapping: Abdullah Ali Al Darweesh, Mazen Ali al-Qabaah, and Mustafa Ahmad Al Sahwan. At the same news conference, al-Turki noted that the capture of these three led to information about three other individuals directly involved in the kidnapping operation: Mohammad Al Ammar, Haitham al-Qudaihi, and Ali Al Hamed.

On 2 January 2017, the three accused of al-Jirani’s kidnapping, Mohammad Hussein Al Ammar, Haitham Ali al-Qudaihi, Ali Bilal Al Hamed, posted statements on YouTube denying the accusations of the Saudi government. Given the lack of fairness in Saudi courts and opportunity for the accused to defend themselves, the absence of the principle of the presumption of innocence, the lack of transparency of Saudi investigations, and the absence of an independent judiciary, it is difficult to verify the truth behind official reports. Those accused of these crimes can expect a deadly level of torture and a complete deprivation of the elements of fair trials, which means that it is very likely that they will be killed, given the Saudi government’s track record.

On 9 March 2017, after Saudi forces carried out the extrajudicial killing of a youth, Mustafa al-Madad, while he was driving his car in Qatif Governorate, the official newspaper, Okaz, said that al-Madad was one of those involved in the kidnapping of Sheikh al-Jirani, even though his name had not been mentioned by the security spokesman. At that point, there were then seven suspects in the al-Jirani incident.

On 3 June 2017, a car in which Mohammed al-Suweymel and Fadel Al Hamadeh were riding exploded in Qatif. Saudi Arabia said that the cause of the explosion stemmed from weapons inside the car. However, local sources suggested that Saudi Arabia launched a rocket at the car, a claim that ESOHR was unable to confirm. The newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, accused the two victims of being involved in the al-Jirani kidnapping, thus raising to nine the number of suspects.

On 19 December 2017, Saudi forces raided the home of the family of a wanted man, Salman Ali al-Faraj; Sergeant Khalid Mohammed al-Samiti was killed in the raid. Before the raid, the police summoned social activist Zaki Mohammed al-Faraj, the victim’s half-brother, and took him to the Mabahith prison in Dammam. On 25 December 2017, Ministry of Interior security spokesman Major General Bassam Attia held a news conference at the security forces officers’ club to discuss the discovery of the identity of suspects in the kidnapping and killing of Sheikh al-Jirani. Before presenting the names of the alleged suspects in the kidnapping, he said that the al-Jirani case was beginning to become clear and was in its final stages. After that, he revealed the names of nine people, in addition to the original six whom Saudi Arabia had accused on 1 January 2017, alleging that all of them were involved in the kidnapping of Sheikh al-Jirani. These nine people were Mohammed al-Suweymel, Fadel Al Hamadeh, Sadiq Abdullah Al Darweesh, Hassan Mahmoud al-Abdullah, Jaafar Hassan Al Mabeyrik, detainee Mustafa al-Sabeyti, Muhammad Al Abdelal, Salman Ali al-Faraj, and Zaki Mohammed al-Faraj. The security spokesman also revealed that someone involved in this crime had been captured without disclosing his name. With this, the number of suspects increased to 16.

Major General Bassam Attia claimed that social activist Zaki al-Faraj had the biggest role in the kidnapping and killing of al-Jirani, but he did not clarify the nature of the others’ roles, merely describing them as persons of influence in the kidnapping. Contrary to the Major General’s statement on the alleged role of Zaki al-Faraj, who is highly-respected in his city, a 30 December 2017 report in Asharq al-Awsat mentioned that an Iranian cleric issued a fatwa permitting the kidnappers to kill him. Furthermore, in its 26 December 2017 report, Al Yaum newspaper stated that suspicions pointed to the Iranian regime masterminding the operation through its agents.

Ministry of Interior security spokesman, Major General Mansour al-Turki, and Major General Bassam Attia of the Ministry of Interior said that investigations had revealed that Sheikh al-Jirani was kidnapped and taken to a farm area known as Salihiya in the town of Awamiyah, where the government said his body was found. They also claimed that the body was found after a comprehensive search of more than two million square meters of farms..

On the other hand, there were numerous official Saudi newspaper accounts with regard to the period of time that Sheikh al-Jirani spent from his abduction until his death. While Ministry of Interior spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki and Major General Bassam Attia were saying that al-Jirani was taken to the farm area after his kidnapping and killed, Asharq Al-Awsat reported that the group that kidnapped al-Jirani received instructions 48 hours later to go to one of the farms, kill him, and bury him there. Moreover, Makkah Newspaper quoted the security spokesman himself saying that the kidnappers “held him for weeks before turning on him,” which differs from what he stated at the press conference.

On 15 January 2018, twenty days after the news conference, Saudi forces killed Abdullah Mirza al-Qallaf while he was driving his car. On 16 January 2018, Al Arabiya News Channel accused al-Qallaf of participating in the killing of Sheikh Mohammed al-Jirani.

Saudi Arabia’s accusations in this case did not stop at a certain point. Even though Major General Bassam Attia said at his 25 December 2017 press conference, “the features of the al-Jirani case have begun to become clear, and it is in its final stages,” a year and a half later, the Saudi Public Prosecution began seeking the “crucifixion” of several detainees accused of involvement in the same case. On 24 June 2019, the Public Prosecution requested the “crucifixion” of Jalal Hassan Labad (born 3 April 1995), charging him with “participating with several people wanted by the security forces in kidnapping and then killing Sheikh Mohammed al-Jirani, in addition to alleging he committed crimes while he was a minor. In August 2019, the Public Prosecution also sought “crucifixion” for Mohammed Allawi al-Shakhuri (born 21 July 1984), charging him with participating with several people wanted by the security forces in kidnapping al-Jirani with the intent to kill him. Jalal Labad and Mohammed al-Shakhuri suffered systematic, brutal torture causing them chronic pain and health complications.

On 17 September 2019, the Public Prosecutor sought “crucifixion” for six individuals, three of whom were charged with offenses going back to when they were minors. The Public Prosecution charged detainee Mohammed Hassan Labad (born 5 April 1988) with “concealing the plans of the terrorist organization elements wanted by security forces for the kidnapping of Judge Mohammed al-Jirani and the location of his body after his kidnapping and killing, and failing to inform security authorities.” Likewise, detainee Mohammed Abdullah al-Faraj (born 2 September 1992) was charged with participation in the terror cell that kidnapped al-Jirani and concealing them.

Furthermore, ESOHR examined official documents in which the Public Prosecution charged Majid Al Adam with involvement in the al-Jirani kidnapping and killing. On 2 July 2019, security forces carried out the extrajudicial killing of Al Adam in a raid.

Thus, the suspects in the kidnapping and killing of Sheikh al-Jirani, according to the Ministry of Interior, the Public Prosecution, and official Saudi newspapers, number no fewer than 22 people. Nine of them were killed extrajudicially, 11 are in detention (the Public Prosecution has sought “crucifixion” for four of them), and two are wanted.

Group One: those killed extrajudicially

  1. Mustafa al-Madad
  2. Mohammed al-Suweymel
  3. Fadel Al Hamadeh
  4. Sadiq Abdullah Al Darweesh
  5. Hassan Mahmoud al-Abdullah
  6. Jaafar Hassan Al Mabeyrik
  7. Salman Ali al-Faraj
  8. Abdullah Mirza al-Qallaf
  9. Majid Al Adam

Group Two: those in detention

  1. Abdullah Ali Al Darweesh
  2. Mazen Ali al-Qabaah
  3. Mustafa Ahmad Al Sahwan
  4. Mustafa al-Sabeyti
  5. Mohammed Al Abdelal
  6. Zaki Mohammed al-Faraj
  7. Jalal Hassan Labad
  8. Mohammed Allawi al-Shakhuri
  9. Mohammed Hassan Labad
  10. Mohammed Abdullah al-Faraj
  11. Mohammed Hussain Al Ammar

Group Three: those wanted

  1. Haitham al-Qudaihi
  2. Ali Bilal Al Hamed

Through its monitoring of the kidnapping case of Sheikh Mohammed al-Jirani via Saudi Interior press conferences, official newspapers, and indictments against the detainees, ESOHR believes that the Saudi government is using this crime to justify the liquidation of wanted individuals and the killing of detainees. This is apparent in the expansion of charges against many for committing the same crime without explaining their roles in most cases.

The Saudi government’s conduct in this regard is not extraordinary. In 2019, the government executed five people, including minors Salman Al Quraysh and Abdullah Al Asrih, on charges of participating in killing one soldier, Hussain Boua Zabani, and wounding another on 2 August 2012. The executions occurred despite the fact that Ministry of Interior security spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki, on 3 August 2012, stated that security patrols had captured four people involved in this incident after exchanging gunfire with them, resulting in the death of one of them on the way to the hospital. He also mentioned that security authorities had received a report from the hospital stating that a person with a gunshot wound had arrived and was found to have been involved in the incident.

Not only do the charges brought by Saudi Arabia lack concrete evidence; Saudi Arabia has also practiced deadly torture against some of those accused of this crime. ESOHR believes that Saudi courts are not independent, lack the most basic standards of justice, and are not committed to achieving justice for this crime.

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