A video message has emerged containing what could be the final known words of a missing former student of James Cook University, who mysteriously disappeared after departing Australian shores.
In April, Mohammed Matar Alshalawi flew from Australia to Saudi Arabia to visit his loved ones; however friends and family say he never got to his destination in the Middle Eastern country.
The student migrated to the coastal Queensland city of Townsville in 2019, and recently graduated from university with a geology degree.
While in Australia, Mohammed expressed his opinions about Saudi Arabia’s government, with friends speculating he may have been detained for that reason, or even killed by the country’s secret police, the Mahabith.
A video filmed by Mohammed before he left for the Middle Eastern country suggests he too had those fears, and he worried about what would happen once he set foot on his home soil.
“If you are watching this recording, then the Saudi authorities have arrested me two or three months ago for charges related to freedom of expression,” he is heard saying in the recently released video.
“I want everyone to remember me as the simple guy who worked a lot to achieve his dream.”
Mohammed continued by addressing everything he enjoyed about Australia, including his passion for geology, reading, writing and ultimately “freedom”.
“Please remember me and pray for me,” he added, before the short video ended.
Friends of Mohammed told The Townsville Bulletin the university student feared something was going to happen to him because his brother had been arrested due to text messages he had exchanged with him.
“He attended an event at uni in first semester for a group that he was part of when he was a student here and just seemed a bit off,” one student, who did not wish to be identified, told the newspaper.
“At the end of the night he pulled five of us aside and just explained the situation.
“He said that his brother had been arrested because of text messages that they’d been sending regarding their thoughts on the government.
“He was worried that he’d go missing too, so he told us about his plan with the video and we tried to help, but there was just nothing we could do.”
A former housemate of Mohammed, Evan Michaels, said the student had lost contact with his brother around February, with family later calling on him to come home.
“He told us he needed to talk to us urgently, this all seemed a bit odd and he said something strange is happening in Saudi Arabia. He hadn’t heard from his brother. ‘There are some relatives that are basically in contact with me saying you need to come back home,’” Mr Michaels recalled.
“He was wondering if the Saudi secret police were speaking to them and trying to make him come home.”
A James Cook University spokesperson told The Bulletin the university was aware of the situation and has been in touch with Mohammed’s friends.
“JCU is concerned for the welfare of the former student, and hopes contact is made with him soon,” the spokesperson said.
The Department of Home Affairs said that, due to privacy concerns, it could not comment on individual cases.