Nadhir al-Majid is serving a seven-year sentence in relation to an opinion article penned for an Arabic-language magazine defending protests in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province city of Al-Qatif. He was detained in 2017 on the same day he was convicted.
On January 18, 2017, a Riyadh court convicted al-Majid of "slandering the ruler and breaking allegiance with him," and "sending a group of electronic messages to a number of media outlets and satellite TV channels and human rights organizations," according to news reports. The court sentenced the columnist to seven years in prison, a subsequent seven-year travel ban, and a fine of 100,000 Saudi riyals (US$26,662), according to news reports.
Human Rights Watch and the Saudi-focused human rights organization Al-Qst both reported that he was detained the same day he was convicted. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights reported that he was transferred from Al-Hair prison in Riyadh to the General Intelligence Prison in Dammam on March 21, 2017.
The charges relate to an April 2, 2011 opinion piece that al-Majid published in Al-Mothaqaf, an Australia-based, Arabic-language magazine. The column, headlined “I protest, therefore I am,” supported the right to protest amid calls for a "Saudi Day of Anger" in the predominantly Shia Muslim eastern Saudi city of Al-Qatif, according to Human Rights Watch and Front Line Defenders.
The journalist had been imprisoned before. Security forces arrested al-Majid on April 13, 2011, at the school where he worked in Al-Khobar, according to news reports. Agents from Saudi Arabia’s General Investigations Department raided his house the same day, and confiscated his laptop and other belongings, according to reports. Authorities kept al-Majid in detention for the next 15 months, five of which he spent in solitary confinement, according to the news reports and the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, a Cairo-based human rights organization. On July 26, 2012, a court ordered his release, pending trial, according to news reports.
According to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, al-Majid chose to stand trial in the absence of his family or a lawyer "because he perceived the trial as…a formality" that did not follow international standards for a fair trial.
The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties, a Gulf-focused human rights group, reported on August 16, 2019, that al-Majid’s health had deteriorated in prison due to the effects of physical and psychological abuse and solitary confinement. CPJ could not confirm whether he was still in solitary confinement or in poor health as of September 2020. Nor could CPJ determine whether al-Majid had any new court appearances. As of September 2020, Al-Qst reported on its website that al-Majid is detained in Al-Mabahith prison.
In October 2020, CPJ emailed the spokesperson and the media office for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. for comment about journalists held in Saudi prisons, including al-Majid, but received automated messages that the emails were not delivered. The same month, CPJ also sent a request for comment to an email listed on the website of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Royal Court, but received a message saying the address did not exist. CPJ also emailed the Saudi Ministry of Media and sent a message through the website of the Saudi Center for International Communication, but neither request was returned.