Families of US detainees in Egypt, Saudi Arabia 'left out' of Blinken call

Families of US detainees in Egypt, Saudi Arabia 'left out' of Blinken call
Relatives of US nationals wrongfully detained in Saudi Arabia were left out of a phone call with Antony Blinken as President Joe Biden prepares for his visit to the Gulf kingdom
2 min read
05 July, 2022
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to the families of US nationals detained abroad in a phone call late last month [Getty]

Relatives of US nationals held in Egypt and Saudi Arabia have reacted with anger after they were left out of a recent phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, The Guardian reported  on Tuesday.

The phone call, which took place on 22 June, saw Blinken tell relatives of US nationals detained or held hostage in Russia, Venezuela, Rwanda, and other countries that he is "working to bring their loved ones home", State Department spokesman Ned Price said at the time.

However, relatives of US nationals detained in the two Middle Eastern countries did not take part in the call - held weeks before US President Joe Biden's visit toIsrael, and the occupied Palestinian West Bank, and Saudi Arabia, where he is expected to try to re-kindle the US-Saudi relationship.

"The willingness of the US to expend its political capital in resolving wrongful detention cases is not consistent and is based on some arbitrary criteria: is your wrongfully detained family member detained in a country that is a foe or ally?" one individual who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Guardian.

The US State Department told the British daily: "We take our responsibility to assist all US nationals seriously, and we press for fair and transparent treatment in all cases."

Before being elected, Biden had vowed to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" state because it had ordered the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The president's planned trip has sparked condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans, as well as human rights activists, who say the visit lent Saudi Arabia's rulers credibility despite the kingdom's appalling human rights record.

During the visit, Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are expected to discuss oil production, Riyadh's ties with Israel, and policy towards Iran.

The US has also been accused of turning a blind eye to human rights violations by Egypt, a regional military ally.