Adel Benaimah’s journalism focused on religious topics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he wrote in support of Hamas. Benaimah was among a wave of prominent religious figures detained in September 2017 at the onset of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s crackdown on the press. In March 2019, he was named by The Guardian as one of several journalists tortured in detention.
Benaimah was arrested in September 2017, according to the human rights organization Al-Qst and Qatari-based Al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera did not specify a date, while Al-Qst said he was arrested September 12.
Benaimah wrote frequently on his website about religious topics, such as Islamic banking and the linguistics of the Quran, and also commented on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including in a column in which he defended Hamas and the group’s firing of rockets at Israel, according to a CPJ review of his site. According to Benaimah’s CV, he was also the editor of the monthly cultural magazine Al-Jisr and a presenter on several TV and radio programs, including the program "Afaq" on MBC FM, and the program "Ashwaq" on the TV channel Al-Resalah, as well as a professor of Arabic and a preacher at local mosques.
Under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is also Saudi Arabia’s minister of defense, the kingdom has become increasingly close strategically to Israel, and Hamas is proscribed as a terrorist group by Saudi authorities since 2014, according to news reports.
In a February 2018 report for the online newspaper Anha, Benaimah claimed he had not been subject to ill treatment and that his conditions of his imprisonment were good. According to the article, Benaimah was being held in Dhahban prison.
However, in a March 2019 report by The Guardian, Benaimah was named as one of several prisoners whom Saudi prison authorities described in a leaked medical report as being tortured and suffering severe physical injuries and malnutrition as the result of their treatment in prison. The report does not state which detainees specifically were suffering which physical effects.
The report, based on leaked medical reports allegedly prepared for Saudi King Salman, said that detainees suffer variously from malnutrition and lack of fluids, and have bruises and visible injuries, including severe burns. The report said that all named detainees were recommended for immediate transfer to a medical center. At least three other journalists were named in the report, one of whom, Hatoon al-Fassi, was later released.
As of late 2019, CPJ could not determine if any charges had been filed against Benaimah.
CPJ emailed the spokesman for the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., October 3 requesting information about Benaimah and other journalists detained in Saudi Arabia, including on where they’re being held, any charges against them, their current health statuses, and allegations that they were physically abused in prison. The spokesman told CPJ via email the same day that he was looking at the questions and would follow up if the embassy had comment.