An influential Muslim family from Port Elizabeth has asked President Jacob Zuma to help them get their four children who are being detained in Saudi Arabia released, Rapport has reported.
The Saudi authorities refuse to say why the children have been in custody for more than a month without being charged, said Nazir Desai, the father of the children.
The family was in the news in March when a young relative, whose identity may not be disclosed because of her age, tried to leave the country to join the radical Islamic State (ISIS).
Desai and other family members stopped the relative at the airport in Port Elizabeth before she could get on a plane to Syria, her lawyer Zehir Omar confirmed.
“It is a mystery why my children are being detained,” Nazir said about the latest debacle.
His children, all in their 20s, came to South Africa for a short holiday before their arrest when they returned to Saudi Arabia on November 23.
His sons, Shah Wali Shah Yullah and Wasee-Ullah, are lecturers in Arabic studies and his daughters, Huddah and Thembi, are students in Saudi Arabia.
According to Wasa Al-Nafjan, deputy secretary of the Saudi consulate in Pretoria, the Desai children are detained in Jeddah.
She declined to comment on rumours that the Desai’s were arrested because of allegations of terrorism.
“It has to do with an investigation into security issues,” was all she would say.
According to her, there is no indication when the children would be charged for any wrongdoing or released.
“We can only give answers if there is a hearing” she said.
Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for the department of international relations, said he can’t speak about the case and referred Rapport to the department of state security.
Brian Dube, spokesperson for the department of state security, confirmed that the Desai children are being detained due to an investigation into “security issues”.
The Desai family had previously been in the news for their involvement in the Middle East.
Ahmed Sadek Desai, Nazir’s cousin and a well-known Muslim cleric, was apparently detained by the CIA in Bangladesh in 1999.
Ahmed Sadek stated in an interview with The Weekend Post newspaper in Port Elizabeth in 2001 that the CIA questioned him in 1999 because of suspicions that he was involved in the funding of the extremist al-Qaeda organization.
He denied any involvement and was released after several weeks. News24