Over the past year, Saudi Arabia has detained, disappeared, or kept under travel bans at least 89 people who are either US citizens or have been living permanently in America, a new report by the Freedom Initiative (FI) has uncovered.
Titled Friend or Foe the report investigated the impact of Saudi Arabia’s policies of detention, harassment and entrapment of US citizens and their family members. It was dedicated to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Dr Abdullah Al-Hamid, co-founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, and Salah Al-Shehi. All three were either killed or died in Saudi custody.
FI found that at least three US citizens remain wrongfully detained in jails in Saudi Arabia, one of the US citizens is said to be elderly and in a critical medical condition. Authorities in Riyadh are refusing to permit any kind of medical release.
Four other US citizens, who have been released from prison, remain entrapped in Saudi Arabia under travel bans and face terrorism charges. There is also one case of a young US citizen tourist to Saudi Arabia who has been wrongfully detained at an airport and reportedly tortured and drugged to the point of hospitalisation before being released from Al-Ha’ir prison.
Some 47 US citizen women and children were entrapped at some point in time in Saudi Arabia under male guardianship or kafala laws in 2020 and 2021.
The report also highlighted how Saudi Arabia’s campaign of repression transcends its borders, and said that the US is home to more targeted harassment than other countries, including Canada and European nations.
The Saudi government’s harassment and intimidation efforts extend to non-Saudi citizens worldwide and include defaming, bullying and threatening individuals and organisations involved in human rights or policy work.
The report issued several recommendations including a call for US policymakers to further pursue legislation to bring the many US persons wrongfully entrapped in Saudi Arabia home.