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Saudi court upholds conviction of American citizen Walid Fitaihi

The Trump administration had lobbied for the lifting of a travel ban imposed on Fitaihi and his family

Fitaihi, who founded a prominent hospital in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced in December to six years in prison. (Family photo/AFP/Getty Images)

An appeals court in Saudi Arabia has upheld the conviction of Walid Fitaihi, a doctor who holds dual U.S. and Saudi nationality, on charges that included “disobedience” against the kingdom’s rulers, according to a statement Monday from the Freedom Initiative, a Washington-based human rights group that has advocated on Fitaihi’s behalf.

Fitaihi, 56, who founded a prominent hospital in the kingdom, was sentenced in December to six years in prison. The appeals court, which handed down its decision Thursday, reduced his sentence by half, meaning Fitaihi will serve no prison time. But he and seven family members remain under a travel ban with their financial assets frozen by the Saudi government, the Freedom Initiative statement said, quoting Fitaihi’s son, Ahmed Fitaihi, who lives in the United States.

But a Saudi official said that while the appeals court kept in place a travel ban on Walid Fitaihi, the court’s decision meant his family in Saudi Arabia was now free to travel. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, added that assets belonging to Fitaihi’s relatives were not being restricted.

The Trump administration had lobbied the Saudi government to release Fitaihi and lift the travel ban. He was arrested in November 2017 as Saudi authorities detained hundreds of business executives, government officials and royal family members. Fitaihi was held for nearly two years without trial and tortured while in custody, he told family members. Human rights groups said the charges against him — which included illegally obtaining U.S. citizenship — were political in nature.