A dual Australian-Saudi citizen is suspected of facing extradition to Saudi Arabia from Morocco where he has been detained for three weeks.
Dr Usama al-Hasani was detained upon arrival in Morocco “under the request of Saudi authorities”, according to the Saudi human rights group Prisoners of Conscience. He was due to be extradited to Saudi Arabia soon, the group said, an event that posed “a real threat on his life”.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed it was “providing consular assistance […] to an Australian detained in Morocco.” Citing privacy considerations, DFAT refused to give further details.
Prisoners of Conscience posted few details of the detention on Twitter on Sunday.
“We confirm that Dr Usama al-Husaini [sic], holding an Australian citizenship has been arrested in Morocco, under the request of Saudi authorities who also requested his deportation to KSA [the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] as soon as possible,”
An article in Moroccan media suggested Hasani was involved in a group that publicly opposed the Saudi state-backed ultraconservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism.
Comment has been sought from the Saudi and Moroccan embassies in Australia by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
“Prominent figure” Hasani was a businessman and former professor at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, Prisoners of Conscience said.
“He’s been lately in Britain and his name has no link to leading or participating in any public opposition activity.”
Hasani’s detention comes amid scrutiny over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. Saudi dissident and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in Turkey in 2018.
Hasani’s wife told SBS News on Monday she feared “his fate will be like that of Jamal Khashoggi”.
“I am afraid that my husband will be handed over to the Saudi authorities, I am afraid to lose [our newborn child’s] father,” SBS News reported her as saying, while declining to name the woman.
An intelligence report released by US President Joe Biden’s administration on Saturday (AEDT) concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation to kill Khashoggi, a part of what the US sees as a larger Saudi effort to target critics abroad.
While criticising Saudi approach to security, including its prosecution of the war in Yemen, the lack of new US sanctions aimed at the country disappointed the human rights community.
Despite the criticism of Saudi Arabia, the country remains a key strategic partner of the US and UK in the Middle East, a role it has had for decades.