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Saudi Arabia reportedly tortured US citizen: NYT

Storyline:National News, World


The New York Times reports that American citizen Walid Fitahi has been held and allegedly tortured by Saudi Arabia.

An American citizen was allegedly tortured while in custody in Saudi Arabia, according to a report by US newspaper, The New York Times (NYT).

Walid Fitaihi described being dragged from his room in Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton hotel, where he was being detained, and then told a friend he was “blindfolded, stripped of his underwear and bound to a chair,” the report said.

The Harvard-trained doctor was then reportedly shocked with electricity in “what appears to have been a single session of torture that lasted about an hour,” the paper reported.

It also said he was whipped so severely he could not sleep on his back for days.

Mass arrests

Dr Fitaihi, who holds dual American-Saudi citizenship, was one of several hundred prominent Saudis rounded up in mass arrests in November 2017 in an anti-corruption crackdown ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

As with many others, the charges against Dr Fitaihi have not been disclosed and there has been no known trial. He remains in detention.

A number of those who were caught up in the round-up also alleged torture including electric shocks, charges the kingdom has denied.

Dr Fitaihi’s American citizenship could further complicate relations between Saudi Arabia and the US.

In December, the US Senate voted unanimously on a non-binding resolution that blamed the Saudi crown prince for the brutal murder of prominent Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was murdered on October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a group of Saudi agents. US intelligence agencies reportedly believe MBS ordered the murder, allegation the kingdom denies.

A group of US Senators introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require the US Director of National Intelligence to submit a public report on the assassination.

Khashoggi had protested Fitaihi’s detention in Saudi Arabia in a tweet in January, 2018.

“What has happened to us?” Khashoggi wrote in Arabic. “How can someone like Dr Walid Fitaihi be arrested and what are the justifications for it?”

The NYT report says Dr Fitaihi’s American friends are “stepping up a campaign to press Washington to take up his case”.

US President Donald Trump has defended MBS in the wake of the Khashoggi murder and continued relations with the kingdom.

On Tuesday, senior White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner met MBS for the first time since Khashoggi’s murder. It was not mentioned in the White House statement on Kushner’s meeting.

Trump distanced himself from the Khashoggi murder in part, he said, because the journalist was not a US citizen.

End of anti-corruption campaign

MBS has defended the 2017 anti-corruption campaign as “shock therapy” to overhaul the Saudi economy.

When the campaign ended in January, a royal court said authorities had summoned 381 people, some as witnesses, but it provided no names.

It said 87 people confessed to charges against them and reached settlements that included the forfeiture of real estate, companies, cash and other assets.

The public prosecutor refused to settle the cases of 56 people due to existing criminal charges against them. Eight more who declined settlement offers stand accused of corruption, the court said.