Skip to main content

Trump failed to press Saudi Arabia and now a student is dead, lawmaker says

Michigan legislator had urged White House to halt execution of Saudi student set to attend university in his district
Mutjaba al-Sweikat, who was executed last week, had been accepted to Western Michigan University (AFP/File photo)
By in

A Michigan lawmaker has accused Donald Trump of failing to halt the execution of Mutjaba al-Sweikat, a Saudi student who was set to attend university in the midwestern US state.

Jon Hoadley wrote a letter to the White House in 2017 asking the US president to intervene in al-Sweikat's case. But that request was ignored, Hoadley told Middle East Eye in a telephone interview on Monday.

And last week, Sweikat - who had been accepted to attend Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo - was beheaded after years in Saudi jail, where rights groups say he endured vicious acts of torture.

Executed Saudi student had 'bright future' ahead of him in Michigan
Read More »

"The choice to act or not to act both have consequences, and in this case, a young man - and actually many people - lost their lives," Hoadley, whose district includes Kalamazoo, told MEE.

"This should be a reminder and a call every day that we need to stand up for human rights around the globe."

The legislator said the people in southwest Michigan are "furious", "frustrated" and "saddened" by news of the execution.

"We are a community that strongly supports freedom. We are a community that strongly supports the ability for speech and debate and protest," he said.

'There were multiple moments over the past two years where President Trump could have intervened'

- Jon Hoadley, Michigan lawmaker

Sweikat was arrested at the airport before making his journey to Michigan in 2013. He faced "terrorism" charges stemming from his participation in anti-government protests and was sentenced to death in 2017. He was only 17 years old at the time of his detention.

"There were multiple moments over the past two years where President Trump could have intervened, and at the end of the day, this young man and many other young people died," Hoadley told MEE. "It's not right."

Despite growing outrage at Saudi Arabia's human rights record, and with the Gulf country under increased scrutiny since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump has stood by the leaders of the kingdom, namely powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

For his part, Hoadley stressed the need for respecting freedom and human rights in US foreign policy, something he said he hasn't seen from the Trump administration.

"We should have a foreign policy of building bridges and uplifting human rights. Unfortunately, and particularly under the current administration, we have not seen that type of leadership abroad."

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.