RIYADH (Dispatches) – A Saudi court has sentenced a local aid worker to 20 years in prison, weeks after his family reported that his release was imminent.
Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, 37, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in addition to a two-decade travel ban, his sister announced on a series of Twitter posts.
Abdulrahman was detained in March 2018 from the Red Crescent offices in Riyadh, where he worked. He was arrested without a warrant or charge and his family initially knew nothing of his whereabouts.
Areej al-Sadhan, Abdulrahman’s sister who is based in the United States where she is a citizen, said the hearing on Monday was the seventh to take place in his case.
In February, Areej tweeted that Abdulrahman had been permitted to make a call to the family - the second communication they had received from him during the course of his detention - to let them know he would soon be released.
The Saudi regime’s ally, the United States, says it is concerned about reports on the sentencing of the aid worker.
"We will continue to monitor this case closely throughout any appeals process. As we have said to Saudi officials at all levels, freedom of expression should never be a punishable offense,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
The Saudi government media office CIC did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
"No words can describe how I feel! This BRUTAL & UNJUST ruling is just a reminder of the horrible situation the Saudi ppl [people] are in,” Areej tweeted after the court session on Monday.
Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has moved to crush dissent while introducing cosmetic social and economic reforms to modernize the kingdom. Saudi authorities have detained senior royals, activists, intellectuals and clerics.
Last month, women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released after nearly three years in prison, having served half of her custodial sentence.
Two Saudi activists with U.S. citizenship have also been freed on bail pending trials on terrorism-related charges.