A Saudi national with U.S. citizenship was sentenced to six years in prison on Tuesday by a Saudi Arabia court despite appeals from the Trump administration to release him, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Walid Fitaihi was reportedly charged with illegally acquiring U.S. citizenship in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to The Post. He was arrested by Saudi officials in November 2017 and reportedly tortured and held without trial for around two years.
Fitaihi was charged with procuring U.S. citizenship without official permission and for supporting the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, The Post reported. He was released in 2019, though his family’s Saudi assets remain frozen and they are under a travel ban.
“We are disappointed to hear of the sentencing of Dr. Walid Fitaihi and are seeking a full understanding of the ruling against him,” a State Department spokesperson said, The Post reported.
Devastating news from Saudi Arabia—an American citizen & @Harvard trained doctor @Walidfitaihi was just sentenced to 6 yrs in prison in Saudi, purely based on politically motivated charges. RT to call for his freedom & @freedomfirst for all prisoners of conscience! #FreedomFirst pic.twitter.com/9p2mQvrF4N
— Téa Leoni (@TeaLeoni) December 9, 2020
Fitaihi established a respected hospital in Saudi Arabia, according to The Post. Human rights groups described the accusations against Fitaihi as politically motivated. (RELATED: Saudi Arabia Arrests Two US Citizens In Latest Crackdown On Reformers)
President Donald Trump has been hesitant to criticize human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, though the administration has advertised Fitaihi’s case and asked the Saudi government to forgive him, The Post reported.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he and Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir have “discussed our concerns about American citizens, and we asked for lifting the travel ban on Dr. Fitaihi,” during a news conference in October, The Post reported.
Fitaihi has 30 days to appeal the sentence, The Post reported. He, his wife, and their six children were issued a 6-year travel ban despite all being U.S. citizens.
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