Morocco to extradite Australian to Saudi Arabia, wife says

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced al-Hasani, a businessman who previously worked at a Saudi university, to two years in prison [File: Fayez Nureldine/AFP]

A Moroccan court has decided to extradite Osama al-Hasani, a dual Australian-Saudi citizen, to Saudi Arabia, his wife said, in a case that has concerned rights groups.

His wife, Hanae, cried as she told Reuters over the phone on Wednesday: “I did not expect this verdict.” A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced al-Hasani, a businessman who previously worked at a Saudi university, to two years in prison. Al-Hasani was arrested on February 8 when he arrived in the Moroccan city of Tangier, where he was planning to join his wife and four-month-old baby.

International lawyers acting on behalf of al-Hasani have asked United Nations special rapporteurs to raise his case with Moroccan authorities. A March 5 statement, issued by UK-based lawyer Haydee Dijkstal, who is acting as the international counsel for al-Hasani, cited concerns that he was being targeted by the Saudi Arabian government for his political opinions. “The submissions raised concerns that Mr al-Hasani is being targeted by the Government of Saudi Arabia for political opinions he has expressed which have been critical of the Government, and that his rights to freedom of expression and association are therefore being violated as result of his arrest in Morocco, and might be irreparably violated if he is extradited to Saudi Arabia,” said the statement.

“Special Rapporteurs were asked to look to Saudi Arabia’s evidenced pattern of abuse and violations of detainees as demonstrating the credible and real risk that Mr al-Hasani will not receive a fair trial in Saudi Arabia, and that his fundamental due process rights and right to health and safety would be at significant risk in Saudi Arabia,” it added. A Moroccan justice ministry official said the arrest took place following an Interpol notice filed by Saudi Arabia, adding that al-Hasani is wanted by the Saudis for a penal code matter involving theft. A source who had attended a hearing leading up to the court decision said the defence had pointed out that Saudi documents mention that al-Hasani was born to a Moroccan father, which makes him a Moroccan under Morocco’s laws.

Moroccan law prevents the extradition of Moroccans to other countries, the source quoted lawyers saying. “Morocco has ratified an anti-torture convention and should abstain from extraditing a national to a state where he may endure torture,” Khadija Ryadi of Moroccan rights group AMDH, said last week. The Australian government said on Thursday it was in contact with Moroccan authorities about the matter. “The circumstances of his detention and possible extradition are of concern to Australia,” a spokesperson for the foreign affairs department told the Guardian.

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