An attorney who was approached to represent a local Muslim family, whose four children have been detained for close to a month in Saudi Arabia for “security reasons”, says the siblings are being held without charge and are being denied the right to communicate with their family or lawyers.
The Desai family, who are based in Port Elizabeth, have issued an appeal to President Jacob Zuma in a bid to gain assistance in securing their children’s release. The detained are all based and working in the Saudi Kingdom.
Despite being approached to take on the case, attorney, Zehir Omar requested the family instead seek the assistance of the Department of International Relations. Speaking to VOC’s Drivetime, he said that as per the South African constitution, there was an obligation on national government to try and assist all citizens who were overseas and facing some form of human rights abuses.
“They (Saudi authorities) are refusing to bring these four siblings to court, they are refusing to tell them what they are charged for; their continued detention is in violation of their rights as per our constitution,” he suggested.
Omar said that while South Africa’s diplomatic officials in the kingdom were engaged in attempts to secure the release, those channels had to be deferred from until Saudi law was exhausted.
“If the Saudi authorities are engaged currently in their interrogation process and they’ve told our foreign affairs that, that interrogation process may well be contrary to the bill of rights in our constitution. But our country is forced to respect the process, which means that we will have to wait until they have been told by Saudi authorities that the interrogation process is now complete,” he explained.
There are reports that the Desai family are related to a young girl who, in March, was intercepted at the Port Elizabeth Airport, purportedly as she attempted to flee the country to join ranks with the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. Omar sought to divert attention from this by accusing Saudi Arabia of being one of the biggest backers of the radical group, in light of the country’s strong diplomatic ties with the United States.
“ISIS is using American arms and the injured of ISIS are getting treated in Riyadh and Tel-Aviv.”
The suggestion that these youngsters are linked to ISIS is misplaced. There is clearly another reason,” he stated.
While the Saudi Embassy in South Africa has refused any interviews on the matter, it has issued a statement confirming that the siblings are under investigation for security issues.
The Desai family are related to Ahmed Sadek Desai, who was allegedly detained in 199 by the CIA over allegations of funding Al-Qaeda. VOC