A Saudi appeals court upheld the verdict and lengthy prison sentence handed to an aid worker earlier this year by a counterterrorism court.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price expressed disappointment “that a Saudi court has upheld the 20-year prison sentence followed by an equal length travel ban for Saudi aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.”
“We have closely monitored his case,” said spokesperson Price, “and are concerned by allegations that Mr. al-Sadhan was subjected to mistreatment, that he has been unable to communicate with family members, and that his fair trial guarantees were not respected. As we have underscored to Saudi officials at all levels, the peaceful exercise of universal rights should never be a punishable offense.”
Sadhan was arrested on March 12, 2018, from the Red Crescent Society offices in the capital Riyadh, where he worked. His sister Areej, a U.S. citizen who has been advocating for his release, said he was detained without a warrant or charges against him. Rights groups say he was seized after his anonymous Twitter account was broken into.
Following the news that the sentence was upheld on appeal, Areej said, "We are devastated!"
According to the Geneva-based MENA Rights Group, al-Sadhan was brought to trial in April for having run two satirical Twitter accounts and accused of funding terrorism, supporting or sympathizing with the Islamic State militant group, and preparing, storing and sending messages that "would prejudice public order and religious values."
Spokesperson Price said the United States “will continue to elevate the role of human rights in our relations with Saudi Arabia and to encourage legal reforms that advance respect for human rights of all individuals.”