Al-Sunaidi, host of the program “Saat Huwar” on the television channel Al-Majd, was arrested by Saudi authorities in September 2017, according to the Qatari news website Al-Sharq and the Salam International Organization for the Protection of Human Rights.
After a year in detention, Al-Sharq and the London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi both reported that authorities began a trial of al-Sunaidi in September 2018 in a Specialized Criminal Court on charges of “supporting the Muslim Brotherhood” and “demanding the release of security detainees.” Al-Sharq also reported that authorities charged him for attending a conference in Libya after the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi without obtaining permission from authorities. According to Al-Quds al-Arabi, authorities were angry with him for hosting Islamic authorities on his program, including the cleric Salman al-Awdah, who was later detained himself.
According to the online news outlet Middle East Monitor, authorities suspended a program of al-Sunaidi’s in 2013 after he hosted academic Mohammed al-Hudayef, who was later detained. The outlet also reported that al-Sunaidi had hosted other clerics on his show who were later detained.
The London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi reported that al-Sunaidi was known for his moderation, and for steering clear of controversial topics. In September 2017, authorities under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began an ongoing wave of arrests of perceived dissidents--including journalists, academics, religious figures, and activists--that has targeted those who were previously critical of the Saudi government, as well as independent thinkers and writers who did not publicly state their support for the crown prince or his policies.
As of late 2018, CPJ was unable to determine where al-Sunaidi was being held or the current status of his trial. As of late 2018, the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, D.C., had not replied to an email from CPJ seeking comment on al-Sunaidi’s whereabouts or conditions, or any legal proceedings against him.
Al-Sunaidi was not included in CPJ’s 2017 prison census because at the time, CPJ was not able to confirm his name among the detainees or his work as a journalist.