Thursday, February 29, 2024

US lawmakers denounce Saudi court sentencing of US-Saudi doctor | Saudi Arabia

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A Saudi court this week sentenced Dr Walid Fitaihi to six years in prison on charges that US lawmakers deem “baseless and politically motivated.”

US lawmakers have criticized Saudi Arabia for sending a prominent Saudi-American doctor to six years in prison, calling the charges against Dr Walid Fitaihi “baseless and politically motivated.”

In a statement Thursday, five Democratic US senators called on Saudi authorities to immediately drop the charges and release Fitaihi, as well as lift travel restrictions against his family.

“We are dismayed that Walid Fitaihi was sentenced to six years in prison by a Saudi court on political grounds”, the senators said.

“The Saudi government should immediately release Dr. Fitaihi, lift his family’s travel ban and drop these baseless and politically motivated charges.

U.S. lawmakers and U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration officials have repeatedly called for the release of Fitaihi, a Saudi-American dual citizen and Boston-area physician who was one of many arrested during the ” 2017 anti-corruption investigation ordered by Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salman.

Human Rights Watch and The Freedom Initiative said Saudi Arabia’s Terrorism Tribunal, the specialized criminal court, convicted Fitaihi on December 8 “on vague charges primarily related to his peaceful political views and expression.”

The groups said in A declaration Thursday, that the charges include obtaining a foreign nationality without the permission of the Saudi authorities, offending other countries and their leaders, and “breaking allegiance to the leader” by sympathizing with a “terrorist” group .

“The fact that the Saudi authorities have trafficked Dr Walid Fitaihi under blanket accusations shows that the government has no intention of relaxing its crackdown on peaceful criticism,” said Adam Coogle, HRW deputy director for the Middle East. -East.

“The message to Saudi citizens is clearly that any opinion expressed that contradicts Saudi Arabia’s official domestic or foreign policy will lead directly to jail.”

Fitaihi, who is free to appeal on hold, and seven of her family members, who are also U.S. citizens, have been banned from travel since November 2017, rights groups said, and the family’s assets have also been frozen since this year.

The case caught the attention of the Trump administration officials and US lawmakers, including the latter stressed that Fitaihi’s continued detention could have an impact on US-Saudi relations.

However, the Trump administration has remained a staunch supporter of Saudi Arabia and its de facto leader, the Crown Prince, despite calls from human rights groups to hold the Gulf Kingdom accountable for its record. regarding human rights and the detention of activists.

The fact that the Saudi authorities have trafficked Dr Walid Fitaihi under blanket charges shows that the government has no intention of relaxing its crackdown on peaceful criticism.

Adam Coogle, Human Rights Watch

In 2019, the New York Times reported that Fitaihi was allegedly tortured while in detention in Saudi Arabia.

Fitaihi reported being dragged out of his room at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, where he was being held, then told a friend that he was “blindfolded, stripped of his underwear and tied to a chair, ”according to the newspaper.

His son, Ahmed, too appealed to US lawmakers last year to help free his father.

“I’m sure you understand how confusing it is to watch this man being dragged and beaten and electrocuted. It makes no sense, ”said Ahmed Fitaihi. “He’s dedicated his whole life to improving people’s lives.”


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