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Opinion Saudi Arabia is torturing a U.S. citizen. When will Trump act?

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Buenos Aires on Nov. 30, 2018. (Sergio Moraes/Reuters)

BEFORE HE was murdered inside a Saudi Consulate in October, our colleague Jamal Khashoggi questioned why Saudi Arabia had detained a prominent doctor, Walid Fitaihi, a dual Saudi-U.S. citizen seized in a November 2017 roundup of businessmen. The detainees, in what was described as an anti-corruption drive, were held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. “What happened to us?” Khashoggi, himself a Saudi, asked on Twitter. “How can a person like @Walidfitaihi get arrested, and for what reason?” He added, “With no interceding channels to pursue & no Attorney General to answer questions & verify charges, of course everyone is struck with awe and helplessness.”

Today, Khashoggi is no longer able to ask such impertinent questions. He was assassinated in Istanbul by a hit squad that intelligence reports say was dispatched by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. But Khashoggi’s question remains relevant. Mr. Fitaihi, founder of a medical center in Jeddah, is still a captive. It is not known precisely why, and he has never been charged, although the New York Times quoted a friend saying he was being pressured to give evidence against a relative.

He has been tortured during his captivity. He was reportedly grabbed from his room at the Ritz, slapped, blindfolded, stripped to his underwear, bound to a chair, shocked with electricity and whipped so severely that he could not sleep on his back for days. The Times said his lawyer has written to the State Department that the doctor “is in fear for his life, that he cannot take his situation any longer, and that he desires all possible help.” The Associated Press quoted the lawyer as saying Mr. Fitaihi is now in a prison hospital after suffering “an emotional breakdown.” Mr. Fitaihi earned his medical degree from George Washington University and holds a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University.

On another front in Mohammed bin Salman’s drive to crush critical voices, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announced charges Friday against a group of female activists who campaigned to give women the right to drive — a right that Mohammed bin Salman conferred after they sought it. The activists have been jailed for nearly a year, during which Amnesty International says they have been tortured and sexually abused. They did nothing wrong and should be released unconditionally and immediately.

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In the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked about the crown prince’s role in the Khashoggi murder, declared that the United States would “hold everyone that we determine is responsible for this accountable in an appropriate way, a way that reflects the best of the United States of America.”

A doctor with U.S. citizenship was tortured and held without charge. Women who stood for human dignity and equality were jailed and tortured. A journalist was killed. Yet President Trump and his administration — including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who last week met with the crown prince — are loath to act. That does not reflect the best of the United States of America.

Read more:

David Ignatius: How a chilling Saudi cyberwar ensnared Jamal Khashoggi

The Post’s View: Saudi Arabia’s latest account of Khashoggi’s death is shocking in its audacity

The Post’s View: The Senate’s resolution was a powerful repudiation of Saudi Arabia — and Trump

Karen Attiah: Trump’s defense of Khashoggi’s Saudi murderers will stain him (and America) forever

Read Jamal Khashoggi’s columns for The Washington Post