US citizen sentenced to six-year prison term in Saudi Arabia: report
A dual U.S.-Saudi citizen was sentenced to six years in prison in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday on charges that include illegally obtaining U.S. citizenship, The Washington Post reported.
Saudi Arabia sentenced Walid Fitaihi, who was arrested in November 2017, on charges of obtaining citizenship in the U.S. without official permission and tweeting support for the 2011 Arab Spring protests, a person close to Fitaihi’s family told the Post.
Two U.S. diplomats were present in the Saudi capital of Riyadh at Fitaihi’s hearing resulting in the sentencing, which he has 30 days to appeal. Saudi Arabia also instituted another six-year travel ban for him, his wife and six children, although all are U.S. citizens, according to the family source.
The sentencing took place even though President Trump’s administration has vocally requested Saudi Arabia let Fitaihi go and allow his family to leave the country.
The president typically refrains from criticizing Saudi Arabia, but his officials appealed for Fitaihi’s release both publicly and privately, people briefed with the discussions told the Post.
Fitaihi, who founded a prominent hospital in Saudi Arabia, was arrested along with hundreds of business executives, government officials and royal family members in 2017. His family members said he was held in custody without trial for almost two years and was tortured. Saudi officials deny he was tortured in custody.
Last year, Fitaihi was released from custody although authorities kept him and his family under a travel ban.
In October, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. and Saudi officials “discussed our concerns about American citizens, and we asked for listing the travel ban on Dr. Fitaihi.”
Fitaihi, a motivational speaker and television host, is one of at least three Americans in custody in Saudi Arabia, including Salah al Haidar, the son of a Saudi women’s rights activist, and Bader al Ibrahim, a physician and writer, according to the Post.