Adel Benaimah

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Journalist Adel 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-Qst said he was arrested on September 12, while Al-Jazeera did not specify a date.

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 Benaimah’s CV, he was also the editor of the monthly cultural magazine Al-Jisrand, 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 Salman, who is also Saudi Arabia’s prime minister, the kingdom has become increasingly close strategically to Israel, and Hamas is proscribed as a terrorist group by Israel and, since 2014, by Saudi authorities.

In a February 2018 report for the online newspaper Anha, Benaimah said he had not been subject to ill treatment, and that the conditions of his imprisonment were good. According to the article, Benaimah was being held in Dhahban Prison. 

However, in the 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 from severe physical injuries and malnutrition as the result of their treatment in prison. The report did not state which specific detainees 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, two of whom, Hatoon al-Fassi and Fahd al-Sunaidi, have been released. 

As of late 2023, CPJ could not determine if any charges had been filed against Benaimah or if he had appeared before a court. CPJ could also not determine if Benaimah continued to face mistreatment or malnutrition, or was able to access medical care in custody. 

In late 2023, CPJ emailed the Saudi Center for International Communication, a media ministry department in charge of public relations, requesting comment on the health and status of Benaimah and other imprisoned journalists, but did not receive a response.