Human Rights Watch urges Morocco not to extradite Saudi Shi'ite
RABAT (Reuters) - A human rights watchdog called on Morocco on Friday not to extradite a Shi'ite Muslim to his homeland of Saudi Arabia, citing fears he could face torture and an unfair trial there.
Hassan Al Rabea, who has been in Morocco since last summer, has been held in a prison near Rabat after being arrested at Marrakech airport on Jan. 14, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
Saudi prosecutors accuse Rabea of leaving the kingdom illegally with the help of terrorists, the campaign group added.
Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond to a request for a comment. It has denied previous accusations that it practices torture and conducts unfair trials.
Rabea's case will be examined by a Moroccan court, which will submit a verdict on the legality of his extradition before a final decision is made by the government, a Moroccan judicial source said.
Shi'ite activists in conservative, mostly Sunni Muslim, Saudi Arabia, say the government has cracked down on their minority sect for years as part of a regional tussle for influence with Shi'ite Iran.
Saudi Arabia denies any discrimination against Shi’ites. It has accused Iran of instigating past unrest in the kingdom by the Shi’ite community.
"The Moroccan government should stand for rights and resist Saudi efforts to forcibly return him," Human Rights Watch said.
In 2021, Morocco extradited Osama al-Hasani, a dual Australian-Saudi citizen, to Saudi Arabia in a case that concerned rights groups.
(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Vin Shahrestani)