Senate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen

Senate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen

Nine Senate Democrats on Tuesday called on Saudi Arabia's King Salman to release several imprisoned dissidents and human rights activists, including a U.S. citizen held since 2017.

“Not only have reputable international organizations detailed the arbitrary detention of peaceful activists and dissidents without trial for long periods, but the systematic discrimination against women, religious minorities and mistreatment of migrant workers and others has also been well-documented,” the senators wrote in a letter.

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The lawmakers called for King Salman to pardon human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair and writer Raif Badawi, in addition to immediately releasing women’s rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul and Samar Badawi, and Dr. Walid Fitaihi, a U.S. citizen held without charges since November 2017.

Fitaihi’s son Ahmed Fitaihi has lobbied lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to call for his father’s release, and is scheduled to appear at a news conference Thursday with Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE (D-Vt.) to discuss allegations that the Saudi government has tortured his father, according to The New York Times.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE (R-Fla.) said last week at a confirmation hearing for John Abizaid, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE’s nominee for ambassador to Saudi Arabia, that the Fitaihi case indicated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has “gone full gangster.”

Tuesday's letter also expressed concerns that any domestic reforms under the crown prince have been “deeply undermined” by actions such as the murder of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi, “overreliance” on the death penalty and Saudi Arabia's military intervention in neighboring Yemen.

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle MORE (Ill.), Leahy, Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinNew push to regulate self-driving cars faces tough road Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandBiden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Biden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Trump steadfast in denials as support for impeachment grows MORE (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Biden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Trump steadfast in denials as support for impeachment grows MORE (Mass.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill Senate passes bipartisan IRS modernization bill MORE (Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyNew push to regulate self-driving cars faces tough road Democratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories Democratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories MORE (Mass.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDesign leaks for Harriet Tubman bill after Mnuchin announces delay Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill after Mnuchin announces delay Bipartisan senators push new bill to improve foreign lobbying disclosures MORE (N.H.).

“Our shared interests must be underscored by support for basic values and freedoms, as anything else will not be sustainable,” the senators wrote.