Saudi businessman sentenced to death for refusing to comply with the authorities

Saudi businessman sentenced to death for refusing to comply with the authorities

Saud al-Faraj is a Saudi businessman who took part in the 2011 anti-government protests in al-Qatif. After refusing to carry out an intelligence mission for the Mabahith, he was arrested on December 2, 2019, by an armed squad. In June 2022, he was convicted by the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) of namely, participating in protests, running a terrorist cell, and killing a police officer. On November 3, 2022, he was sentenced to death by the same court. The Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal upheld his death sentence on January 31, 2023. His case is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

Al-Faraj comes from the Eastern Province of al-Qatif in Saudi Arabia. In 2011 and 2012, he participated in demonstrations to protest against the treatment of the Shi’a minority in al-Qatif. He also attended to the funerals of the victims who were killed by the government forces during these protests. 

At the beginning of November 2019, al-Faraj received a phone call from the Lieutenant Colonel of the Mabahith who asked him to take part in an intelligence mission on behalf of the Saudi government. Al-Faraj refused to take part in the intelligence mission and was therefore threatened by the Lieutenant.

Two weeks later, state forces raided one of the warehouses of a company belonging to al-Faraj, confiscating construction equipment.

On December 2, 2019, al-Faraj and his family returned home at around 3 am to find out that their neighbourhood was raided by the army. They were informed that government forces had fired at his house with machine guns, and that they were looking for him.

Al-Faraj therefore headed to one of his company’s warehouses with his wife and daughter. A few hours later, the warehouse was raided by security forces. He was brutally beaten and arrested. The squad that arrested him did not present an arrest warrant nor did they tell him the reason for his arrest.

He was brought to the General Prison in Dammam where he was threatened and subjected to severe acts of torture and ill-treatments in order for him to write a false confession, which he ended up doing. Al-Faraj was placed in solitary confinement from December 2, 2019, until August 8, 2021. During that time, he was deprived of any contact with his family, his friends, and with a lawyer.

On December 7, 2020, August 24, 2021, and December 20, 2021, al-Faraj submitted complaints for torture and abuse to a member of the Public Prosecution. He insisted that the Prosecutor provides him with a proof that the complaints had rightfully been filed, in vain.

On June 22, 2021, al-Faraj was transferred to another prison with no apparent reason. A few days later, he was brought for the first time before a judge and a prosecutor where he was informed of the charges against him for the first time. The charges include being the leader of a terrorist cell, receiving military trainings on weapons and explosives in Iran, targeting armoured vehicles, participating in protests, and killing a police officer. He was brought back to Dammam’s General Prison immediately after.

On October 3, 2021, and November 17, 2021, al-Faraj was brought before a judicial authority, where he was able to explain everything that had happened to him, including the torture and abuse inflicted by the investigators. He submitted a written statement about what had happened and asked the judicial authority to include it in his case file, which they never did.

On November 2, 2022, al-Faraj’s trial in front of the Specialised Criminal Court took place. There, he claimed his innocence, explained once more what he endured at the hands of the investigators, and stated that the “confession” included in his case file was forced and does not reflect the truth. Nonetheless, the Court used his forced confession as the sole evidence to convict him and sentence him to death.

On January 31, 2023, the Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal upheld his death sentence.

On March 15, 2023, al-Faraj’s lawyer filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. His case remains pending in front of the Court to this day.

During his detention, al-Faraj has written a total of six letters to the judges of the SCC and SCCA, explaining his situation over and over again, claiming his innocence and asking for the judges to show mercy on his case. He also wrote letters to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and to the Saudi Human Rights Commission, to ask them to interfere in his favour. Members of his family also wrote to different Saudi Ministers for the same reason. None of these letters were answered.

On December 18, 2023, MENA Rights Group and the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR) submitted a request for Opinion to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, asking them to deem his detention arbitrary and to request his release.


December 18, 2023: MENA Rights Group submits a request for opinion to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
March 15, 2023: Al-Faraj’s lawyer files for an appeal to the Supreme Court.
January 31, 2023: The Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal upholds the death sentence of al-Faraj.
November 2, 2022: Al-Faraj is sentenced to death by the Specialised Criminal Court.
End of June 2021: Al-Faraj is brought for the first time before a judge and prosecutor, who inform him of the charges against him.
December 2, 2019: Al-Faraj is brutally arrested by an armed squad and taken to the General Prison in Dammam. He is immediately placed in solitary confinement and is prevented from communicating with his family until August 8, 2021.
Beginning of November 2019: Al-Faraj meets with a Lieutenant from the Mabahith who asks him to take part in an intelligence mission, which al-Faraj refuses.
2011-2012: Al-Faraj takes part in the demonstrations happening in the al-Qatif region, protesting against the treatment of the Shi’a minority.