International concern is mounting over a Saudi lawyer jailed for 15 years for offences including 'criticising and insulting the judiciary' and 'assembling international organisations against the Kingdom'. The Lebanon-based Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) said today that it had received reports that Walid Abu Al-Khair had been transferred to hospital after his health deteriorated following a lengthy hunger strike.

Abu Al Khair, 40, is the founder of the Human Rights Observatory in Saudi Arabia. He has been in detention following his arrest at a Riyadh criminal court in 2014. His treatment has been widely condemned, including by Amnesty International and Frontline Defenders.

According to the GCHR, Abu Al-Khair was transferred to King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah after his health deteriorated dramatically. The statement said he has been on hunger strike since 11 December in protest against ill-treatment in Dhahban Prison, including solitary confinement and being banned from having books. 

The GCHR called on the Saudi authorities to release Abu Al-Khair immediately and unconditionally: 'In addition, the Saudi authorities should release all detained human rights defenders and other prisoners of conscience, and provide the required protection to all citizens who work in the human rights field, while respecting public freedoms, including freedom of opinion and expression, without exceptions.'