Riyadh detains relatives of US citizen after Pennsylvania lawsuit, rights groups say
PHOTO CAPTION: General view of Riyadh city, after the Saudi government eased a curfew, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
By Aziz El Yaakoubi
RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian authorities have detained five relatives of a U.S. citizen, three rights groups said on Wednesday, arguing that the detentions were retaliation for his family's failed lawsuit against the Saudi government in the United States.
The Freedom Initiative, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) and ALQST for Human Rights told Reuters Saudi security forces had arrested four relatives of 15-year-old U.S. citizen Rakan Nader Aldossari on May 11.
The detentions, of his grandfather's wife, an aunt and two of his uncles, followed the earlier detention of another uncle on April 9, the groups said in a statement, adding that some were held in cold cells with no blankets or proper beds.
The Saudi government communications office did not respond to an emailed request for a comment.
The Saudi prosecutor's office referred the five to the kingdom's Specialized Criminal Court, which tries terrorism cases, on July 12, the rights groups said. They added that Saudi authorities had prevented the detainees' lawyers from meeting with them or obtaining access to the charges against them.
Rakan's father Nader Aldossari, a U.S. resident, said interrogators told detained family members that they would not be released unless both Rakan and he returned to Saudi Arabia, the statement said. The groups listed the detainees' relations to Rakan, a U.S. citizen, urging Washington to intervene.
The Aldossari family filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania in 2020 against the Saudi government after a long-standing commercial dispute over an agreement in 1994 to establish an oil refinery in Saint Lucia, a Caribbean Island.
Later that year, they named additional Saudi government defendants including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The lawsuit was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
Abdullah Alaoudh, Saudi Director for the Freedom Initiative, said the Aldossari case was an "egregious example of transnational repression by the Saudi government".
Saudi officials say there are no political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
The three organisations called on Washington to press the Saudi government for the release of the Aldossari family members. The U.S. State Department, U.S. embassy in Riyadh and the National Security Council did not respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; additional reporting by Jonathan Landay and Simon Lewis in Washington; Editing by Philippa Fletcher)