Ali Al-Domaini

 * Profession: Leading poet and writer. His publications include three collections of poetry and one novel in Arabic.

Date of arrest: 15 March 2004

Details of arrest: Among twelve leading Saudi intellectuals to have been detained since 15 March 2004 for criticising the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and for planning to set up their own human rights organisation. The NCHR is the kingdom’s first human rights watchdog, and was approved in early March 2004 by the Saudi government as part of limited steps towards political reform. However, many liberal and opposition figures want to see speedier and more radical change than is being offered by the government. A Ministry of Interior official reportedly announced that the detainees were suspected of issuing “statements which do not serve the unity of the country and the cohesion of society…based on Islamic religion”. Most of the detainees have reportedly since been released, but Ali Al-Domaini is thought to be among those to be charged after refusing to sign a document renouncing their political activism.

Details of trial: Al-Domaini is among three reformist intellectuals to have been charged with threatening national unity for their moderate reform activities. All three are said to be specifically accused of promoting a constitutional monarchy and using Western terminology in demanding political reforms. Al-Domaini was sentenced to nine years in prison on 15 May 2005.

Health concerns: He is a diabetic, and is thought to be held in solitary confinement. He has reportedly been granted fortnightly visits from his wife, who says that he is well and in good health. His father died in late October 2004, and Al-Domaini was not allowed to visit his father before he died.

Honorary member: English PEN

Released: 8 August 2005

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