Remarks On Saudi Prisoners Of Conscience

I want to thank The Freedom Initiative and Human Rights Watch for helping organize this important event.  Their research and advocacy is greatly valued here, by both Democrats and Republicans.

I appreciate all of you being here. 

The premeditated murder of Jamal Khashoggi exposed to the world what many have known for a very long time about the Government of Saudi Arabia.  That crime was so barbaric, so depraved, and so brutal, that it was what we would have expected of Saddam Hussein . . . and more recently of ISIS. 

We now know that the Saudi royal family is capable not only of committing such atrocities, but of lying repeatedly to the world in a shameless attempt to cover it up.

Today we are here not only to demand justice for Mr. Khashoggi, but to call attention to other innocent victims who are wrongly imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.  The State Department’s own Country Reports on Human Rights, released earlier this week, describes the appalling, systematic denial of human rights in that country. 

Suffice it to say that the Saudi Government behaves like a criminal enterprise, squandering the country’s oil wealth while applying the most repressive policies and cruel practices to silence its critics.  

One of its best known victims is Dr. Walid Fitaihi, an American citizen and internationally respected physician, whose son Ahmad is here today. 

Why Dr. Fitaihi was seized by Saudi authorities in November 2017 remains a mystery.  No charges have been filed.  No trial has been held.  He simply disappeared into a Saudi prison where he has reportedly been severely tortured.

Like Jamal Khashoggi, there is not a shred of evidence that Dr. Fitaihi is guilty of anything.  He should be released immediately. 

It is worth repeating the question posed in the title of the Washington Post editorial on March 4, 2019:  “Saudi Arabia is torturing a U.S. citizen. When will Trump Act?”  The White House seems far more interested in making excuses for the Saudi royal family, than it is in uncovering the truth about Jamal Khashoggi or obtaining the release of Dr. Fitaihi and other prisoners of conscience.  That needs to change. 

Among those other prisoners are the women rights activists who have been persecuted, including Lujain al-Hathloul, whose brother Walid is here.  The fact that this courageous young woman is in prison for advocating for something as basic as a driver’s license, after the Crown Prince himself claimed credit for allowing women to drive, tells you everything you need to know.  

It is not only opposition that the Crown Prince fears, it is the appearance of capitulation to ordinary citizens that he is determined to avoid by cracking down on those who are merely advocating for reforms he himself claims to support. 

These cases are only a fraction of the known examples of the Crown Prince’s repression.  This is the so-called “reformer” we are told to put our trust in to help lead Saudi Arabia into the future.  As others in Congress have said, he is no reformer; he is an impulsive, ruthless gangster. 

We are here to call for the release of all of those who are wrongly imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, and to call on our own government to make their freedom a priority.

Thank you for being here, especially Ahmad and Walid.  The crimes of the Saudi royal family have been ignored by Congress, and paid lip service to by successive U.S. administrations, for far too long. 

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David Carle: 202-224-3693