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Pelosi 'deeply concerned' over allegations of torture ahead of Saudi aid worker's appeal

Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, a humanitarian aid worker, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Saudi Arabia's specialised criminal court in April
Abdulrahman al-Sadhan was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Saudi Arabia's specialised criminal court in April (Twitter)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned that she is "deeply concerned" about the reported torture of a humanitarian aid worker imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for allegedly running an anonymous social media account.

Abdulrahman al-Sadhan was detained in Saudi Arabia in March 2018 and sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by a 20-year travel ban, according to a 6 April US State Department statement.

In a tweet on Sunday, Pelosi, a Democrat, said Congress would monitor his latest appeal hearing, set to take place on Monday, and "all human rights abuses by the regime". 

"Deeply concerned with allegations of torture in detention of aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan. His sentencing continues Saudi Arabia's assault on freedom of expression," Pelosi tweeted.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment by the time of this article's publication.

A 'brutal' and 'appalling injustice'

Pelosi has advocated for Sadhan since his April sentencing, which she referred to as a "brutal" and "appalling injustice". The State Department also condemned the sentencing at the time. 

Ahead of his last scheduled appeal in August, which was postponed, Pelosi warned Saudi authorities that Washington was "closely" monitoring human rights abuses in the kingdom. 

'We are very worried about my brother’s safety & health, deteriorating under torture in Saudi detention'

- Areej al-Sadhan, sister of Abdulrahman

Sadhan's sister, Areej, thanked Pelosi on Sunday for her "continuous attention & support" for their family and human rights work in general. 

"We are very worried about my brother’s safety & health, deteriorating under torture in Saudi detention, while we remain completely deprived of any contact with him," Areej tweeted

Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has moved to crush dissent while introducing social and economic reforms to modernise the kingdom. Saudi authorities have detained senior royals, activists, intellectuals and clerics.

In an April statement, Geneva-based advocacy NGO MENA Rights Group said Sadhan was brought to trial for having run two satirical Twitter accounts and accused of funding terrorism, supporting or sympathising with the Islamic State group, and preparing, storing and sending messages that "would prejudice public order and religious values". 

The group also said Sadhan's family had learned he was subjected to severe torture in detention, including "electric shocks, beatings that caused broken bones, flogging, hanging from the feet and suspension in stress-positions, threats of murder and beheading, insults, verbal humiliation".