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.
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 Loukain al-Hathloul and Samar Badawi, and Dr. Walid Fitaihi, a U.S. citizen held without charges since November 2017.
Fitahji’s son Ahmed 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 Leahy to discuss allegations that the Saudi government has tortured his father, according to The New York Times.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDem senator wants Trump to extend immigration protections to Venezuelans Juan Williams: Don’t rule out impeaching Trump Trump keeps tight grip on GOP MORE (R-Fla.) said last week at a confirmation hearing for John Abizaid, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: ‘White supremacists pose a threat to the United States like any other terrorist group’ National Enquirer paid 0,000 for Bezos texts: report Santorum: Trump should ‘send emails to a therapist’ instead of tweeting MORE’s nominee for ambassador to Saudi Arabia, that the Fitahji 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.
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“Our shared interests must be underscored by support for basic values and freedoms, as anything else will not be sustainable,” the senators wrote.