Dr. Walid Fitaihi was arrested in 2017 and held without charges for 21 months. Initially, he was held at the Ritz Carlton hotel for the first three months and then transferred to a prison south of Riyadh. In January 2019, he was transferred to a different prison. Fitaihi is being tried on vague charges linked to his social media activity – criticizing the killing of peaceful protestors since the Arab Spring, and possibly for criticizing the President of Egypt. The Judge in the case threw out the charge of “sympathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood” at his current court hearing on August 9, 2019. He was released the next day, but is still on trial and under a travel ban, which has been in force since 2017, against 8 members of his family (all US citizens). CCS has written the President of the United States requesting his involvement in facilitating the permanent release of Dr. Fitaihi and dismissal of his case, allowing he and his family to return to the United States.
January 16, 2020
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump,
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write to express our concern for Dr. Walid Fitaihi, a medical doctor and U.S. citizen, who has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia since 2017 for reasons that are unclear but appear to be related simply to his criticisms on social media of Saudi Arabia’s execution of protestors after the Arab Spring and for criticizing the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Charges that he had links to the Muslim Brotherhood were dropped by the Saudi Arabian courts in August 2019 and he was released the next day while he is awaiting trial.
Dr. Fitaihi was arrested in November 2017 and held without charge for 21 months before finally being charged in August 2019, after which he was released. He is still banned from traveling, as are the eight members of his family, who also currently reside in Saudi Arabia. After allegations that Dr. Fitaihi was tortured surfaced in the New York Times in March, his family home in Jeddah was raided.
Dr. Walid Fitaihi is a George Washington University and Harvard-educated academic; as well as an American Board-certified physician, specializing in internal medicine and endocrinology. He is also the founder, chairman of the board, and CEO of the International Medical Center (“IMC”) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which recently hosted a popular wellness-themed television program called “My Living.” He was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but is also a U.S citizen. He and his family remain at high risk of arbitrary detention and other serious human rights abuses.
Our colleague, Dr. Fitaihi, continues to face prosecution for exercising his right to free expression on social media. It is important that the United States government defend its citizens who peacefully exercise this right. We urge you to use your authority to intervene in this case and ensure that all charges against Dr. Fitaihi are dropped and that he and his family are allowed to travel freely without harassment. We write you, as you have had success, in getting American citizens who are detained in other countries back home. We thought you would have success with Dr. Fitaih,i as well.
Thank you for your consideration of this most important situation.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Ambassador John Abizaid
U.S. Embassy Riyadh
P.O. Box 94309