An Australian citizen facing potential extradition from Morocco to Saudi Arabia was detained just hours after meeting his newborn child, his wife says.
The wife of Dr Osama AlHasani – a dual Australian and Saudi citizen – has also raised fears about his welfare and says the family is confused about the precise nature of the accusations against him.
AlHasani, 42, is expected to face court in Morocco on Wednesday, having been detained shortly after he arrived in the country on 8 February.
The detention stems from a request from Saudi Arabia relating to a criminal matter but the specific accusations remain unclear.
Fears Australian citizen detained in Morocco may be extradited to Saudi Arabia
A letter concerning the case, and reviewed by the Guardian, said Saudi Arabian prosecutors were seeking the extradition “in light of the judicial cooperation relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the sisterly Kingdom of Morocco” and indicated the provisions in question were punishable by two years’ imprisonment.
A report published by a Moroccan news site late last week alluded to accusations that AlHasani was accused of organising opposition activity to Wahhabism, the state-sponsored form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia, but his supporters have argued that he “he has no relation to any political opposition activity”.
AlHasani’s wife, Hana AlHasani, told the Guardian: “We have no clue other than what we were told by Moroccan authorities, that there was an international warrant for a Saudi citizen whom they thought it was my husband.”
In an interview conducted via WhatsApp, she said the person authorities were seeking “had a different name [and] date of birth but the Moroccan authorities did not have any attention for that and refused to accept the identity of my husband as being Australian even [though] he entered the country on that passport”.
Hana AlHasani, a Moroccan citizen, said she had previously been in the UK but her visa had expired so she had to travel to Turkey to give birth and to apply for a new one. But with visas suspended due to coronavirus, she returned to Morocco.
She said the couple’s baby was now four months old. She said her husband had met their baby at the airport after arriving in Morocco on 8 February. She said he had been arrested “just hours after he arrived in our house in Tangier, the moment we where leaving for dinner”.
“We were planning to have a dinner for family and friends following our newborn and he wanted to surprise us with his presence,” she told Guardian Australia .
Asked about her fears about her husband’s potential extradition to Saudi Arabia, she said: “I am just afraid for his wellbeing in these circumstances – whether he is kept here in prison or sent to any country where he could be imprisoned for no reason.”
She said she hoped the Australian government did the best it could to ensure her husband “gets released and comes back to his house and family”.
“I don’t understand how an Australian national gets arrested, in front of my eyes, put in jail for more than three weeks while everyone denies that he actually is in prison,” she said.
She urged Australian officials to help confirm his identity with Moroccan authorities.
Responding to questions on the matter this week, 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”.
But a spokesperson for the department said it would not provide further comment “owing to our privacy obligations”.
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.
AlHasani’s supporters have told the Guardian he has a PhD and is a former professor at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The ABC has reported that he has previously acted as a consultant to two Saudi ministries, including the ministry of justice.
The Twitter account Prisoners of Conscience – which highlights cases of concern in Saudi Arabia – has sought to shine a spotlight on the possibility of AlHasani’s extradition, saying that would place him in “real danger”.
Saudi Arabia has previously been accused of pursuing human rights activists and other dissenting voices. Last week 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.