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'Tortured' US citizen shown friend abused by Saudis and threatened with same fate

Ritz-Carlton guards told physician Walid Fitaihi he also would be stripped, strung up and burnt, source tells MEE
Dr Walid Fitaihi holds joint US-Saudi citizenship and was detained in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton in November 2017 (Screenshot)

A US citizen allegedly tortured by Saudi authorities was brought to see a detained friend who had been stripped, strung up and apparently abused, then threatened he would share the same fate, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Walid Fitaihi, a physician with joint US-Saudi citizenship, was detained in November 2017 as part of Riyadh’s self-styled “anti-corruption” purge.

Fitaihi, along with more than 200 Saudi royals, businessmen and influential figures, was detained by authorities in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Though most have been released, he remains imprisoned elsewhere and has not faced trial. No charges have been made public.

According to a source close to Fitaihi, whose identity cannot be revealed due to security concerns, the doctor was ushered into something resembling a torture chamber soon after being arrested. 

'He was hanging from the ceiling almost naked, with marks that looked like cigarette burns on his body'

- Source

“After he was arrested he was taken into a room and shown a person he knew,” the source told MEE.

“He was hanging from the ceiling almost naked, with marks that looked like cigarette burns on his body.”

“They told Walid Fitaihi, ‘Either cooperate or you will be tortured exactly as he has been’,” the source added.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Fitaihi had indeed been tortured.

About a week after Fitaihi was first detained in the Ritz-Carlton, guards dragged him from the room he was being held in to another in the luxury hotel, according to the NYT.

A confidant of Fitaihi’s told the newspaper the doctor was then “slapped, blindfolded, stripped to his underwear and bound to a chair”.

“He was shocked with electricity in what appears to have been a single session of torture that lasted about an hour,” the NYT reported.

According to Fitaihi’s friend, the Saudi authorities whipped the doctor’s back so severely he was unable to sleep on it for days.

US-Saudi tensions

On Sunday, John Bolton, the White House national security advisor, said Fitaihi was being offered consular services.

"As of this moment, my understanding is we've had what's called consular access, meaning American diplomats in Saudi Arabia have visited with him," Bolton told CNN.

"Beyond that, we don't really have any additional information at this point."

Tensions between Washington and Riyadh have grown in recent months, following the murder of Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul in October.

The CIA has concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman almost certainly signed off on the assassination of Khashoggi, a Middle East Eye and Washington Post columnist.

Riyadh insists that its ruler had nothing to do with the Saudi journalist’s murder or its botched cover-up, a line the White House has accepted.

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However politicians in Congress continue to press the Trump administration on the issue, demanding greater transparency and accountability, as well as an improvement in Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

US lawmakers are also pushing legislation seeking to end US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, as scrutiny on the two countries’ ties grows.

In an apparent attempt to ease tensions, Saudi Arabia last month appointed Princess Reem bint Bandar as a the new ambassador to the US, the first woman to fill the office.

Fitaihi is not the only Ritz-Carlton detainee to apparently suffer torture.

Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the son of the late King Abdullah and once seen as a possible crown prince, was tortured and beaten alongside other royals and businessmen, sources told Middle East Eye at the time.

One Saudi military officer was reportedly tortured to death.