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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Ryan Fahey

Condemned dad-of-eight 'does not know when they will cut off his head' in Saudi Arabia

The sister of a dad-of-eight who is waiting to be "put to the sword" in Saudi Arabia has shared details of the horrific deterioration of her brother's health while on death row.

Jordanian national Hussain Abu al-Khair was driving his cab over a border between Jordan and the Gulf state when he was seized in 2014 with 20,000 pills of Captagon - a stimulant used in the Middle East

Rights groups say the taxi driver was an unwitting drugs mule who was punished while the narco kingpins in the ultra-conservative Sharia state remain at large.

Saudi drug enforcement officers arrested him in May 2014 before taking him to a black site, where he was allegedly subjected to the "most severe" forms of torture over a 12-day period.

Zainab Abu al-Khair has told The Mirror how her brother was subjected to the "most severe" forms of torture during 12 days at a black site in the deserts of Saudi Arabia (ESOHR)

He was suspended from his feet as agents beat his legs, stomach, head, hands and face, rights groups say.

He was also insulted and degraded and forced to sign a confession. The reward for his signature was an immediate end to the brutality he was experiencing.

Now his sister Zainab Abu al-Khair has spoken with The Mirror of how the dangling threat of beheading continues to "torture" Hussain while on death row.

Hussein in prison (Zainab el-Khair)

"My brother is living with great fear for his life," she said.

"Every moment he's expecting it to be his turn as our whole family is forced to live in fear, sadness, and anxiety."

The humble taxi driver, who is from a poor and hard-working family, has been forced to leave his eight children back in Jordan in "misery because of their dad's absence".

As the family's main breadwinner, his nine years in prison have left the family are desperately poor.

Saudi Arabia once carried out executions by beheading in public, drawing huge crowds to watch convicts decapitated (Pictured: Blood stains the sand after an execution in 1985) (Rex Features)

Zainab - who now lives in Canada - raised her brother's case before the Human Rights Council in March 2019, drawing attention to the shocking abuses he suffered after his arrest.

She has been fighting her brother's corner from the start and has repeatedly pleaded with the world to intervene and save his life.

She detailed how her brother has been left in a state of constant terror as he watches the death row population dwindle as each of his fellow inmates "go to the sword".

"He realises every moment that his turn may be next," she said.

Hussein dances at a family celebration during happier times (Zainab el-Khair)

In previous years, Saudi Arabia's public spaces would be used as execution chambers, drawing huge crowds to watch blood stain the sand.

In response to mounting pressure from world leaders, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman made a number promises to reform the country's abysmal human rights records. One of them was a vow that non-violent offenders would no longer be slaughtered.

This would include the drug-trafficking charge Hussain vehemently denies.

But Zainab says MBS's promises are empty and that the state-sanctioned killings have simply been driven away from the public eye and continue behind a curtain of secrecy.

Rights groups have also slammed Riyadh for the disproportionate number of foreigners on death row, including Jordanian national Hussain.

While Saudi prisoners can call their families at regular intervals and are provided with legal advice, foreigners are not afforded such rights, a report compiled by the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR) found.

Hussein is suffering a number of mental and physical health issues as a result of his incarceration, his distraught sister says (Zainab el-Khair)
Zainab said her brother is almost blind (Zainab el-Khair)

Zainab praised the efforts of international organisations and politicians who have raised concerns about the torture on a diplomatic level, but said more needs to be done for the Saudi monarchy to be held accountable.

Hussain - now an elderly man - is also suffering from several physical ailments.

Among his health problems are diabetes, high blood pressure and excruciating foot pain - a lingering souvenir from the black site torture, she says.

He is also nearly blind and gripped with horrendous pain in his stomach and legs, but doesn't know the cause because he's denied medical care, the report found.

Mohammad Bin Salman is flanked by Theresa May (then PM) and Boris Johnson (then Foreign Secretary) as they woo the leader at a strategic partnership council in 2018 (REX/Shutterstock)

In recent years, it has been reported that Hussain is likely suffering from death row syndrome, a psychological impairment seen among individuals facing execution.

The isolation and knowledge of the day of his death, while languishing in a cell no bigger than a parking space, can manifest as suicidal tendencies and even psychotic delusions.

He is "surrounded by death from all sides", his sister tells The Mirror.

Zainab says Hussein's family has been left without any money for nine years after the main breadwinner was locked up (Zainab el-Khair)

His mental woes are all the worse because the cruel Saudi regime won't tell him when he will die, leaving him in a state of constant alert and terror.

"It's psychological torture because he does not know when they will cut off his head," Zainab explained.

He also fears he'll be buried in Saudi Arabia, stealing the opportunity for his family to grieve over his body in his homeland, she said.

Zainab told the Mirror how much she misses her beloved sibling, who loved "music, singing and sports".

A woman beheaded in a Saudi street for killing her husband's six-year-old daughter screams her innocence in graphic footage of the execution (Mirror Screen Grab)

Despite growing up poor, the big family man "was always smiling, loving life, and telling jokes".

"He was social in every sense of the word," Zainab recalled.

But Hussain isn't the only one suffering as a result of his sentence.

Zainab, unable to contact him regularly, says she is plagued by thoughts of the lack of justice and her brother's health, adding that she now has to take medication to drag herself out of the misery.

"How does this happen when we are in the 21st Century," she said, adding: "What will our grandchildren say about us when they read the history books."

The long list of accusations against the Saudi regime would equate to gross violations of the UN's Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

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