A former attaché at the Saudi embassy in The Hague risks imprisonment and torture if he is deported back to Saudi Arabia from his current home in Qatar. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International says Mishal bin Zaar Hamad al-Mutiry would be in danger in his homeland and Al-Mutiry is calling on The Netherlands to help protect him.
By Jannie Schipper
His troubles began in 2004 when he accused the Saudi Embassy in The Hague of financing terrorist activities. Al-Mutiry had worked as an attaché at the embassy since 2000, and his accusations led to questions in the Dutch parliament. Al-Mutiry and his family were eventually granted temporary political asylum but the former diplomat claims that he was then kidnapped by Saudi agents in 2006.
Taken to Brussels
“They lured me to a meeting in The Hague and then took us away in separate cars,” says Al-Mutiry. “I was knocked out and my ten-year old son Youssef was put in a separate car from the rest of the family”. Al-Mutiry claims they were then held in a motel near the Brussels airport, again without Youssef, until they were forced to board a plane for Saudi Arabia. “We couldn’t do anything or make any trouble because we were scared they would hurt him,” explains Al-Mutiry, saying that Youssef was brought on board the plane just minutes before take- off.
Al-Mutiry claims he was arrested on arrival and tortured before being released six months later. He was forbidden to leave Saudi Arabia Questions about the alleged kidnapping were asked in the Dutch parliament by the populist politician Geert Wilders. (Al-Mutiry describes the Freedom Party leader as “my best friend”.) The Foreign Minister’s response to the questions is not made public, but the Saudi Embassy denies all the allegations. In a statement, the Embassy claimed Al Mutiry had asked for assistance to return to Saudi Arabia with his family , adding that he had never enjoyed diplomatic status and that he was fired from position following financial and other problems “that damaged the good name of the Embassy.”
James Bond scenario
“It may sound like a James Bond-story ,” comments Mehdi Abbes, a Brussels-based lawyer who has acted for Al-Mutiry, “But it’s happened before, to a Saudi prince”. Abbes is referring to the reformist Sultan bin Turki bin Abdel-Aziz who claims he was drugged and kidnapped by Saudi security officials in 2004.
Al--Mutiry believes that the Dutch government was and is responsible for his safety. He and his wife and children had (temporary) refugee status in the Netherlands at the time of the alleged kidnapping and his son Fahd was born in the country. Their residency permit expired in 2007.
Al-Mutiry has repeatedly approached Dutch embassies and consulates in the Gulf Region for help. As far back as 2007 he approached the Netherlands’ representative in the Saudi capita Riyadh. He claims he was told they could not help him and his family within Saudi Arabia, but if he left the country he “The Netherlands would be fully responsible” for him. His wife claims to have also approached the embassy in Abu Dhabi but the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry has not confirmed the discussions, or supplied answers to other questions put by RNW.
Al-Mutiry and his family eventually fled to the Gulf State of Qatar, and in 2011 the Dutch Embassy in Doha referred them to the UN refugee organisation UNHCR. The embassy also communicated with the Arab human rights’ group the Alkarama Foundation. However, the group’s Geneva-based head office accuses Al-Mutiry of using Alkarama’s letterhead without permission to bring his case to the attention of the Embassy and other organisations. In September 2011, Alkarama issued an apology for this “misunderstanding” to the agencies involved.
Since their arrival in Qatar, Al-Mutiry and his families have faced a number of difficulties ranging from unemployment and legal proceedings to sexual intimidation of his daughters. He claims the Saudi authorities are behind all these problems. “They’ll do anything to make life difficult for us”. Al-Mutiry was arrested in September 2012, but released after a week following the intervention of human rights groups. Since December 19th, the family has been warned a number of times that they must leave the country. A final ultimatum expired earlier this week but negotiations over the case are still continuing.
Chance of torture
According to Amnesty International, Qatar will be in breach of the UN Treaty Against Torture if it hands Al-Mutiry over to Saudi Arabia. “We are unable to verify his story about the 2006 kidnapping,” said a spokesperson, “but whatever the circumstances, Qatar cannot deport him to a land where he risks being arrested and tortured. And we are certain that risk is great in Saudi Arabia.”
The former diplomat continues to search desperately for a way out, once more appealing without success to the Dutch Embassy in Doha this week. “My children are terrified,” he says, “We know what to expect if we are forced to return to Saudi Arabia.”