Prisoners of Conscience

Australian extradited to Saudi Arabia faces ‘credible risk’ of torture

An Australian citizen has been extradited to Saudi Arabia just days after a Moroccan court approved the transfer request, and without allowing his lawyers, who say he faces a “credible risk” of torture, time to appeal the decision.

International lawyers acting for Osama al-Hasani, 42, have previously asked United Nations special rapporteurs to raise the dual Australian-Saudi Arabian citizen’s case with Moroccan authorities, citing “credible concerns” that he was being targeted by the Saudi Arabian government for his political opinions.

Last week the Australian government confirmed it had been in contact with Moroccan authorities after the decision. A spokesman said an Australian embassy official had been able to visit al-Hasani.

His lawyers said he had been moved to Saudi Arabia in the past 24 hours.

“The extradition took place just days after a Moroccan court approved Saudi Arabia’s extradition request, and before Mr al-Hasani’s local lawyers were able to take steps to challenge and appeal the decision,” his lawyer, Haydee Dijkstal, said.

“Today’s extradition presents a real risk that Mr al-Hasani’s safety, security and fundamental rights will be irreparably violated in Saudi Arabia, particularly due to credible concerns that Mr al-Hasani is being targeted by the government of Saudi Arabia for political opinions he has expressed which have been critical of the government.

“It is disappointing and worrisome that the government of Morocco carried out the extradition despite its clear obligation under international law, and under its acceptance of the convention against torture, to not extradite any person to a state where there are substantial grounds to believe the person is in danger of being tortured.

“The credible risk that Mr al-Hasani will be tortured and abused in Saudi Arabia upon his extradition has been repeatedly raised by international counsel for Mr al-Hasani in communications to the Australian and Moroccan governments, and in an urgent appeal to UN special rapporteurs.”

On Thursday the Australian government confirmed it was in contact with Moroccan authorities and that an Australian embassy official had visited him.

The department of foreign affairs said in a statement to the Guardian: “DFAT is providing consular assistance to an Australian man, Osama Alhasani, who was detained in Morocco on 8 February 2021.

“The Australian Government is concerned about the circumstances of his detention, his access to the due process of law, and the validity of foreshadowed extradition proceedings to Saudi Arabia.

“DFAT has been undertaking and is continuing urgent talks with Morocco and Saudi Arabia about Mr Alhasani’s legal case, and to insist upon continued consular access and the transparency of legal processes.”

Al-Hasani – a dual Australian and Saudi citizen – was detained shortly after he arrived in Morocco on 8 February in connection with an extradition request from Saudi Arabia. His wife, Hana al-Hasani, said he was detained just hours after meeting his newborn child.

She said on Thursday: “I can’t describe my feeling. I was just told today that I could visit my husband tomorrow for the first time since he was arrested and now I am being told that this may be my last visit and even may be the last time I could see him alive.

“The fact that he will be extradited to Saudi Arabia means simply that he is going to be tortured and maybe worse than that, things I don’t want to think about right now.

“I still hope a miracle will happen and I still have trust that this country has wise people in charge, led by the king of Morocco, that will not allow this to happen.”

Al-Hasani is a father of four. His youngest child turned five months old the day his father was in court: “And I really hope the Australians will succeed in moving something and taking him [al-Hasani] home, to be safe and secure.”

A report published by a Moroccan news site has previously alluded to accusations that al-Hasani was accused of organising opposition activity to Wahhabism, the state-sponsored form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia, but his supporters have argued he “he has no relation to any political opposition activity”.

SBS News quoted a Moroccan justice ministry official as saying the arrest took place after an Interpol notice filed by Saudi Arabia, adding that he was wanted by the Saudis for a penal code matter involving theft. Reuters claimed a court there had previously sentenced him to two years in prison on theft charges, which he denied.

A statement issued on Thursday on behalf of al-Hasani’s family said a Moroccan court had approved his extradition to Saudi Arabia.

“This is an extraordinary and disappointing decision,” the statement said.

The statement, issued by Dijkstal, said the extradition was approved “despite urgent concerns raised of the real and credible risk to Mr al-Hasani’s fundamental rights, safety and security if he is extradited to Saudi Arabia”.

Dijkstal said a representative of the Australian government was understood to have been present at the two hearings before the extradition decision was released, but al-Hasani was not present in the courtroom for either hearing.

Dfat has said it is providing consular assistance.

The Guardian

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