al-Ha'ir Prison

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Coordinates: 24°26′56″N 46°48′47″E / 24.449°N 46.813°E / 24.449; 46.813 (Al-Ha'ir Prison) Al-Ha'ir Prison (Arabic: سجن الحاير‎ also romanized as al-Hayer, al-Hayar, or al-Haer) is a Saudi Arabian maximum-security Mabahith-affiliated[1] prison located approximately 25 miles south of Riyadh. Saudi Arabia's largest prison, the complex includes facilities for both common criminals and security offenders, and reportedly houses a number of al-Qaeda figures.

Prison conditions[edit]

In September 2003 there was a major fire at al-Ha'ir in which sixty-seven inmates died and at least twenty were injured.[citation needed]

In 2015, journalist Kevin Sullivan of The Washington Post visited al-Ha'ir prison, including one cell that looked "spartan but clean", in which an inmate described the conditions as "good". Sullivan's host described the prison as illustrating the "government’s strategy of showering inmates with perks rather than locking them down in harsh, Guantanamo Bay-style conditions".[2] Gary Hill of the International Corrections and Prisons Association, who spent two decades visiting Saudi Arabia advising on prison warden training, stated to Sullivan that he expected prisoners in Saudi Arabian prisons "to be treated nicely — that's their religion". As of 2015, Hill had never visited any Saudi prison.[2] Sullivan also interviewed Ministry of Interior spokesman Mansour al-Turki, who stated that the recidivism rate for terrorist incidents by ex-detainees was twenty percent, and Sevag Kechichian of Amnesty International, who stated that "allegations of mistreatment and torture of prisoners in Saudi prisons are widespread" and that "torture can still happen even in nice-looking prisons — when no one is looking".[2]

Famous inmates[edit]

  • William Sampson, a British-Canadian man tortured and kept in solitary confinement for 31 months, and Sandy Mitchell, one of Sampson's co-accused, were detained from 2001 to 2003.
  • Mohammad Al-Harbi, a Saudi high-school teacher who was accused of mocking religion and sentenced to three years' imprisonment and 750 lashes.
  • Hani al-Sayegh, a Saudi controversially accused of complicity in the Khobar towers bombing, was detained starting from 2000.[3]
  • Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a billionaire Saudi investor who was detained during the 2017 Saudi Arabian purge and initially held at The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh.[4]
  • Eleven princes of the House of Saud were detained at al-Ha'ir on 6 January 2018, after they publicly protested in opposition to a new government policy requiring royal family members to pay their own electricity and water bills and with a request for monetary compensation for a death sentence against one of their cousins.[5]


In October 2004, former detainees William Sampson, Sandy Mitchell and Les Walker, part of a group of nine foreign nationals convicted of bombing, terrorism and espionage (and subsequently released on royal pardon) were given permission by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales to sue for redress for wrongful conviction and torture. Named in the suit were:

  • Prince Naif, Minister of Interior
  • Mohammed Said, governor of al-Ha'ir Prison
  • Ibrahim al-Dali, officer of the Mabahith (the Saudi Arabian general intelligence service)
  • Khaled al-Saleh, officer of the Mabahith

In 2006 this judgement was overturned by the Law Lords, and the plaintiffs appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.


External links[edit]