Sunday, July 14, 2024

Rights groups say Saudi Arabia arrested 5 relatives of US citizen over failed lawsuit

Saudi Arabia has detained five relatives of an American citizen, rights groups say, arguing that the detentions were made in retaliation for his family's failed lawsuit against the Saudi government in the United States.

The Freedom Initiative, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) and ALQST for Human Rights said Saudi security forces had arrested four relatives of US citizen Rakan Nader Aldossari on May 11. An uncle was detained on April 9, the groups announced in a statement on Wednesday.

His grandfather’s wife, an aunt and two other uncles were detained in May and some were held in cold cells with no blankets or proper beds, the statement added.

The Saudi prosecutor’s office referred the five to the kingdom’s Specialized Criminal Court, which tries terrorism cases, on July 12, the rights groups said. They added that Saudi authorities had prevented the detainees’ lawyers from meeting with them or obtaining access to the charges against them.

Rakan’s father Nader Aldossari, a US resident, said interrogators told detained family members that they would not be released unless both Rakan, who is 15-years-old, and he returned to Saudi Arabia, the statement read. The groups listed the detainees’ relations to Rakan, urging Washington to intervene.

The Aldossari family filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania in 2020 against the Saudi government after a long-standing commercial dispute over an agreement in 1994 to establish an oil refinery in Saint Lucia, a Caribbean Island.

Later that year, they named additional Saudi government defendants including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The lawsuit was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Abdullah Alaoudh, Saudi Director for the Freedom Initiative, said the Aldossari case was an “egregious example of transnational repression by the Saudi government”.

Saudi officials say there are no political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

The three organisations called on Washington to press the Saudi government for the release of the Aldossari family members.

“The United States has consistently underscored to the Saudi government the importance of fair and transparent judicial processes,” a department spokesperson said by email.

“We have also made clear that we take very seriously reports or threats of transnational repression, particularly when US citizens may be involved,” the spokesperson added.

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