The son of a dual United States-Saudi citizen who has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia has met members of the US Congress as he seeks help in securing his father’s release.
Ahmed Fitaihi said his father, Walid, has been beaten, electrocuted and subjected to other forms of torture and allowed little contact with his family in 16 months of his custody so far.
Walid Fitaihi was a physician in Boston before he returned in 2006 to his native Saudi Arabia, where he helped found a hospital built by his family and became a popular motivational speaker on television.
In November 2017, Fitaihi was one of about 200 prominent Saudis detained in a mass roundup and held a prisoner at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton hotel.
The Saudi government described the mass arrests as a crackdown on corruption. Critics, however, decried it as a move to consolidate power by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and claimed the detainees were being tortured.
His family says they have not been told if he is facing any charges.
“I’m sure you can see how confusing it is to see this man, being dragged, and beaten and electrocuted. This doesn’t make any sense at all,” the son said at a news conference in Washington organised by Human Rights Watch (HRW). “He’s dedicated his entire life to making people’s lives better.”
Fitaihi spoke alongside a brother of Lujain Alhathloul, a women’s rights activist who has been in custody since May and went on trial this week.
Her brother, Walid al-Hathloul, said she has been subjected to electrocution and threatened with rape. “I am desperate to save my sister’s life,” he said.
The Saudi embassy said in response that the kingdom prohibits torture and that authorities are investigating the allegations of mistreatment of the prisoners.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes any allegations of ill-treatment of defendants awaiting trial or prisoners serving their sentences very seriously,” it said in a statement.