US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has expressed “deep concern” over the torture of a Saudi aid worker while in detention in the kingdom.
“Deeply concerned with allegations of torture in detention of aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan,” the Democratic congresswoman from California said in a statement on Twitter.
“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,” she added.
Deeply concerned with allegations of torture in detention of aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan. 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.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) September 12, 2021
Sadhan, a 37-year old humanitarian aid worker, was detained by Saudi authorities in 2018 and sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by a 20-year travel ban.
The activist, who worked with the Saudi Red Crescent Authority, was arrested on March 12, 2018 from his office by Saudi security agents, according to MENA Rights Group, an independent regional human rights watchdog.
After nearly two years of enforced disappearance, he was allowed to make a call to his family on February 12, 2020. His family heard from his again one year later, on February 22, 2021.
A week later, Sadhan was put on a secret trial at a Saudi criminal court on the flimsy charges of running two satirical Twitter accounts. On April 5, 2021, the court sentenced him to 20 years in prison, followed by a travel ban of another 20 years.
The campaign for Sadhan’s release has gained momentum since his sentencing in April. His sister Areej al-Sadhan has been leading an online fight, exposing the Saudi regime’s atrocities.
In one of her recent tweets, she accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of implementing enforced disappearance and torture “as a practice to terrorize people” and to “silence the freedom of speech”, calling him a “dictator”.
Since MBS came to power he implemented #EnforcedDisappearance & #Torture as a practice to terrorize people & silence #FreedomOfSpeech.
MBS is a dictator NOT a reformer! #StopMBS #FreeSaudiActivists https://t.co/qyoicQwfDA
— Areej Al Sadhan أريج السدحان (@AreejASadhan) September 1, 2021
Since his controversial rise to power, bin Salman has moved to crush any form of dissent against the ruling establishment in Riyadh, even carrying out purges inside the royal family to consolidate power.
In March this year, a declassified US intelligence report implicated the Saudi heir apparent in the murder of political dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which gave rise to questions about continued American military cooperation with Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi regime who later became a critic, was killed and his body dismembered by a Saudi hit squad inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.
The Biden administration imposed sanctions on several Saudi individuals involved in the murder but refused to punish the crown prince, despite evidence pointing to his direct complicity.