Update 1 May 2019: ALQST has confirmation that Saudi-US doctor Walid Fitaihi has been released on bail by the Saudi authorities after 20 months' arbitrary detention, first at Riyadh's Ritz Carlton hotel and then in prison, during which he was tortured. He still faces trial on unspecified charges.
ALQST is alarmed that, according to a credible report, Saudi Arabian authorities have tortured Saudi-American medical doctor, 54. They have been holding him without charge, in pre-trial detention since November 2017.
Saudi officials have tortured Dr. Walid Fitaihi, 54 years old on several separate occasions since his detention in 2017, including by way of slappings, beatings, stripping him naked and subjecting him to electric shocks. His physical and mental state has deteriorated rapidly as a result, and he was transferred to the prison hospital of Dhahban Prison, near Jeddah, in around early January 2019.
Saudi authorities arrested Dr. Fitaihi on 5 November 2017 as part of a wave of arrests. They detained him along with scores of others at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.
In January 2018, Dr. Fitaihi was transferred to Hai’ir Prison in Riyadh and in around early January 2019 the authorities transferred him to Dhahban Prison, where he is currently being detained, at the time of writing this report. Contrary to basic international fair trial principles, Dr. Fitaihi has not been able to challenge the basis of his arrest; the authorities have denied him access to a lawyer of his choosing and pre-trial release, in line with the presumption of innocence. The authorities have not not charged him.
ALQST Director Yahya Assiri said: “Walid’s plight highlights the ever-widening and intensifying repression in Saudi Arabia. It is not just activists and human rights defenders that the authorities target, but even medical doctors such as Walid with no prior history of political activism. His allegations of torture, taken with scores of other such reports, show that the authorities have normalised the use of torture, even though Saudi Arabia is a state party to the legally-binding, UN Convention against Torture. Walid is a prisoner of conscience, who must be released immediately and unconditionally”.
ALQST calls for an independent investigation into Dr. Fataihi’s allegations of torture. We also urge international partners, especially the US government, including on account of his citizenship, to call for his immediate and unconditional release.
Dr Walid Fitaihi is a 54 year-old doctor. He completed his undergraduate and medical degrees from George Washington University, US. He is married and has seven children, all of whom are dual Saudi-American citizens.
Dr. Fitaihi returned to Saudi Arabia in 2006, where he soon founded a private hospital, the International Medical Centre in Jeddah. He also hosted a popular TV show called Mahyay,(My Living) which addressed psychological, social, and physiological issues.
On 5 October 2017, the authorities banned him from travelling.
They arrested him and scores of others, on 5 November 2017, as part of a wave of arrests made in the name of “combating corruption”. A large number of government officials, princes, and businessmen were detained in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Riyadh, without any regard for legal or judicial procedures.
Most of them were later released after secretive financial settlements had been reached, with absolutely no transparency and no involvement of the judiciary; indeed detainees were subjected to severe torture to extract these “settlements”.
Those who would not agree to these “settlements” were transferred to al-Ha’ir Prison in Riyadh. Notable among those released were the well-known businessman Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, Prince Muteb bin Abdullah, and a group of leading Saudi businessmen.
Among those still detained is Walid Fitaihi. In June 2016, the United Nations Committee against Torture, the independent panel that reviews state implementation of the treaty, stated that officials “should ensure both in law and in practice that all persons deprived of their liberty are able to have prompt access to a lawyer of their choice [and] to confer with their lawyer in confidence” and “discipline or prosecute officials who fail to provide safeguards to detainees”.