American citizen 'detained and tortured' during Saudi crown prince's purge

American citizen 'detained and tortured' during Saudi crown prince's purge
American citizen Walid Fitaihi was detained during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's so-called anti-corruption clampdown.
2 min read
03 March, 2019
Saudi Arabia's crown prince ordered a clampdown of leading figures in 2017 [Getty]

An American citizen was detained and tortured in Riyadh during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's recent clampdown on business leaders and royals in the kingdom, according to a report.

Dr Walid Fitaihi was held at the Ritz Carlton hotel in the Saudi capital during the crown prince's purge of suspected political opponents, which began in 2017, according to the report viewed by The New York Times.

Dr Fitaihi was allegedly dragged from the room he was detained in by his Saudi interrogators, before being "blindfolded, stripped of his underwear and bound to a chair".

He also said he was whipped so badly he was unable to sleep for days due to the pain.

The report also states the doctor was given electric shocks in "what appears to have been a single session of torture that lasted about an hour".

Dual American-Saudi national Dr Fitaihi was rounded up during Mohammed bin Salman's alleged anti-corruption drive in November 2017.

The sweep saw hundreds of leading royals, officials and business leaders detained at the Ritz hotel, with at least one person allegedly dying under torture.

The charges against Dr Fitaihi have not been made public, but he is still believed to be detained in Saudi Arabia.

Late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi tweeted about Dr Fitaihi's detention before the writer was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.

"What has happened to us?" Khashoggi wrote in Arabic on Twitter in January 2018. "How can someone like Dr Walid Fitaihi be arrested and what are the justifications for it?"

American and Turkish intelligence believe Khashoggi was murdered on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, due to his criticism of his policies.

Dr Fitaihi's American friends are "stepping up a campaign to press Washington to take up his case", according to The New York Times report.

American politicians and media figures have turned against the crown prince due to the murder, however US President Donald Trump is said to be still close to the Saudi royal.

Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and adviser reportedly met Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday, the first time since the crisis over Khashoggi's murder.

Prince Mohammed claims the sweep was part of an anti-corruption campaign, designed recover billions lost in graft and shake-up the country's business community.

Opponents have called it a shake down and said the purge was intended to intimidate and crush potential opponents.

Liberal and women's rights activists have also been detained, sparking concern from human rights groups over their welfare.