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US 'deeply concerned' at alleged Saudi torture of aid worker

MUNICH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 14: U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi speaks during the 56th Munich Security Conference at Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich, Germany on February 14, 2020. ( Abdulhamid Hoşbaş - Anadolu Agency )
US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi speaks during the 56th Munich Security Conference at Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich, Germany on February 14, 2020. [Abdulhamid Hoşbaş - Anadolu Agency]

Washington's growing distrust of Saudi Arabia has prompted another intervention by Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

The 81-year-old is one of the most senior Democrat politicians, having been a member of Congress since 1987. She said yesterday that she is "deeply concerned" about the alleged torture of a Saudi Arabian aid worker Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan.

Al-Sadhan works for the Red Crescent Society, and is the son of a US citizen. He was arrested on 12 March 2018 at the society's offices in Riyadh, where he worked, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Kingdom's counterterrorism court. A report by Amnesty International last year warned that the Saudi authorities were using the counterterrorism court — the Specialised Criminal Court — as a weapon to silence the country's peaceful opposition systematically.

"Deeply concerned with allegations of torture in detention of aid worker Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan," tweeted Pelosi. "His sentencing continues Saudi Arabia's assault on freedom of expression. Congress will monitor Abdulrahman's appeal hearing tomorrow, as well as all human rights abuses by the regime."

READ: US 'closely' monitoring human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia as fate of aid worker hangs in balance

Yesterday's comment by Pelosi come just over a month after a similar frosty message was directed at Riyadh by the veteran politician. It is also a further indication of the growing distrust and deterioration of relations between Saudi Arabia and the US, which has coincided with the rise of the Kingdom's de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

In additions to the decision by the US on the anniversary of 9/11 to remove missile defence systems from Saudi Arabia, the Biden administration has also released declassified secret FBI files that allegedly detail the involvement of Saudi nationals in the 2001 terror attack.

Moreover, the US defence secretary has postponed a visit to Riyadh, while Israeli officials have cautioned President Joe Biden against heavy criticism of Egypt and its long-time ally Saudi Arabia.

According to Al-Sadhan's sister, his health is getting worse. "We are very worried about my brother's safety and health, deteriorating under torture in Saudi detention, while we remain completely deprived of any contact with him," tweeted Areej Al-Sadhan.

READ: Protests in US over the murder of Yemeni-American in Lahj province

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