Abdulrahman al-Sadhan was reportedly sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by a 20-year travel ban.
The US State Department has expressed concern over reports of the conviction of a Saudi aid worker by an “anti-terrorism” court and is monitoring the case closely.
Aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, who was arrested by Saudi authorities in March 2018, was reportedly sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by a 20-year travel ban, according to a statement from the Department spokesperson. ‘State Ned Price. His arrest is said to be linked to an anonymous Twitter account he ran that satirizes the Saudi government.
“We will continue to monitor this matter closely throughout any appeal process. As we have told Saudi officials at all levels, freedom of speech should never be a punishable offense, ”Price said in a statement Monday.
Saudi government media did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
We are concerned about reports that Saudi aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan has been sentenced to 20 years in prison and a travel ban, pending appeal, after being detained with contacts limited with his family for three years. The exercise of human rights should never be a punishable offense.
– Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) April 6, 2021
The administration of US President Joe Biden has said it will take a stronger stance on Riyadh’s human rights record, a backbone of former President Donald Trump’s approach, which maintained strong ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and has taken a permissive approach to the kingdom.
In February, the United States released an intelligence report that directly linked the crown prince to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while Washington was critical by rights monitors for failing to take direct action against MBS. The crown prince has denied any involvement.
Now that we only sell him “offensive” weapons, he promises to be a very good prince and only persecute the Saudis in Saudi Arabia. https://t.co/8BwYKI3VND
– Sarah Leah Whitson (@ sarahleah1) April 5, 2021
The Biden administration has urged Riyadh to release political prisoners, which Saudi authorities deny.
Last month, women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul published after nearly three years in prison, after serving half of his custodial sentence.
Two Saudi activists of American nationality were also released on bail pending trial on charges of “terrorism”.
The press releases were seen as an attempt to smooth out friction following the Khashoggi report.
The United States, which exports around 80% of Riyadh’s arms, has also said it will end support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen and relevant arms sales to the country, but has so far offered little clarity on the concrete actions undertaken.
‘Brutal and unfair’
Al-Sadhan was arrested on March 12, 2018 at the offices of the Red Crescent Society in Riyadh, the capital, where he worked.
His sister Areej, a U.S. citizen who pleaded for his release, said he was held without a warrant or charge against him. An advocacy group says he was arrested after his anonymous Twitter account was violated.
“No words can describe how I feel! This BRUTAL AND UNFAIR decision is just a reminder of the horrible situation in which the Saudi ppl finds itself, ”tweeted Areej al-Sadhan after Monday’s court session.
The arrest was part of a wider attempt by the Crown Prince to crush dissent in the kingdom as he simultaneously pushed for social and economic reforms that sought to consolidate Western support and modernize the kingdom.
the repression saw the Saudi authorities detain members of the royal family, activists, intellectuals and clerics.