Saudi appeals court upholds 20 year sentence for aid worker

Saudi appeals court upholds 20 year sentence for aid worker, US disappointed
2 min read
The US State Department said it was disappointed by the reports and concerned by allegations that Sadhan was "subjected to mistreatment."
The aid worker was reportedly sentenced to 20 years in prison in March 2018, his sister says she is "devastated" [Getty]

A Saudi appeals court has upheld a lengthy prison sentence handed to aid worker Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan earlier this year by a counterterrorism court, his sister said.

Sadhan, who was detained by Saudi authorities in March 2018, was reportedly sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by a 20-year travel ban, the US State Department said in April.

The Saudi government media office CIC did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Sadhan was arrested on March 12, 2018, from the Red Crescent Society offices in the capital Riyadh, where he worked.

His sister Areej, a US citizen who has been advocating for his release, has said he was detained without a warrant or charges against him. Rights group say he was seized after his anonymous Twitter account was breached.

"The appeal court issued to keep the initial ruling of the 20 years imprisonment followed by 20 years travel ban," Areej al-Sadhan tweeted on Tuesday. "We are devastated!"

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On Wednesday, the US State Department said in a statement it was disappointed by reports that the sentence was upheld and was concerned by allegations that Sadhan was "subjected to mistreatment."

"As we have underscored to Saudi officials at all levels, the peaceful exercise of universal rights should never be a punishable offense," it said.

Geneva-based MENA Rights Group said in April that al-Sadhan was brought to trial for having run two satirical Twitter accounts and accused of funding terrorism, supporting or sympathizing with the Islamic State militant group, and preparing, storing and sending messages that "would prejudice public order and religious values".

Areej al-Sadhan said in a video this week the hearings were all held in secret, her brother was denied access to a lawyer and to his family throughout the trial and that he had been subjected to torture in detention.

Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has moved to crush dissent while introducing social and economic reforms to modernise the kingdom. Saudi authorities have detained senior royals, activists, intellectuals and clerics. 

(Reuters)