Australian consular officials say they are seeking to help an Australian citizen who has been detained in Morocco, as human rights activists raised fears the man may be extradited to Saudi Arabia.
Supporters of the businessman Dr Osama AlHasani – a dual Australian and Saudi citizen – said he was expected to face court in Morocco on Wednesday, having been detained shortly after he arrived there on 8 February.
His supporters told the Guardian they viewed the case as political and that the Saudi Arabian government had requested his extradition. The case was first reported in Australia by the ABC on Sunday.
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Responding to questions on the matter, a spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was “providing consular assistance, in accordance with the consular services charter, to an Australian detained in Morocco”.
“Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Monday.
The brief statement did not address the fears of extradition, nor did it confirm the person’s identity.
The Twitter account Prisoners of Conscience – which highlights cases of concern in Saudi Arabia – had earlier sought to shine a spotlight on the possibility of deportation, saying that would place him in “real danger”.
The account added: “We reassert that he has no relation to any political opposition activity.”
That appeared to be a response to accusations – which were mentioned in a report published by a Moroccan news site late last week – that AlHasani was accused of organising opposition activity to Wahhabism, the state-sponsored form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia.
AlHasani’s supporters have told the Guardian he has a PhD and is a former professor at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He is said to have experienced a problem upon his arrival at an airport in Morocco on 8 February, and was subsequently detained.
The precise details of the accusations, and of the consular assistance Australia has provided, remain unclear.
It is understood consular assistance can include visiting prisons to monitor welfare, liaising with local authorities about the person’s wellbeing, and providing lists of local lawyers – but officials typically maintain that they cannot intervene in legal cases.
Saudi Arabia has previously been accused of prosecuting human rights activists and other dissenting voices who defy the country’s absolute monarchy.
On Friday, the Biden administration published a newly declassified US intelligence report indicating that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, approved the 2018 murder of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said: “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
The US government is expected to unveil a new policy towards Saudi Arabia on Monday, with Joe Biden declaring that “the rules are changing”, but has so far stopped short of directly sanctioning the crown prince.