Middle East

First Saudi Arabia arrest sweep since Khashoggi murder

A State Department official confirmed to CNN on Friday that two US citizens were arrested in Saudi Arabia, but declined to provide names. "We can confirm that two US citizens were arrested in Saudi Arabia," the official said. "We have already engaged the Saudi government in this regard. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment." Salah al-Haidar, a dual Saudi-US citizen who is the son of prominent women's rights defender Aziza al-Yousef, was one of those arrested, according to two sources familiar with the events. Yousef was temporarily freed from a prison in Riyadh last month and is on trial along with 10 other women's rights defenders. One source is a Saudi academic in a US university who has strong relations with the Saudi dissident community. The other source is a Saudi activist with knowledge of the events.Haidar is a writer and journalist on social issues. His father owns a home in Vienna, Virginia, according to the Saudi academic who asked not to be named out of concerns for his safety.Another Saudi-US dual citizen, the writer and physician Bader al-Ibrahim, was also arrested in the crackdown, the sources said.The UK-based Saudi rights group Alqst reported that seven activists had been arrested on Thursday, and released their names.All seven detainees are writers and social media bloggers who are connected to Yousef's family and are friends with Haidar, according to the sources. They previously engaged in public discussions about reforms and have publicly endorsed women's rights causes such as the right to drive, the sources said.Jeff Bezos investigator: Saudi Arabia obtained private information Two of the activists detained on Thursday are Saudi married couple Thumar al-Mazouqi and Khadijah al-Harbi, said the sources. Harbi, who has written about and campaigned for women's rights, is in late-stage pregnancy, the sources added. She and Mazouqi have been supportive of detained women's rights defenders currently standing trial.The sources also confirmed that a Riyadh university lecturer named Anas al-Mazrou was arrested on March 19. Days earlier a video of Mazrou filmed at a book fair, in which he publicly expressed solidarity with political prisoners and named some detained women's rights defenders, had gone viral.The Saudi government did not immediately respond to CNN's requests for comment about the case. CNN has reached out to the US embassy in Riyadh for comment. Saudi Arabia has conducted a series of crackdowns on dissidents since Prince Mohammed bin Salman was elevated to Crown Prince in June 2017. The arrest sweeps have targeted clerics, academics and human rights defenders. US citizen Dr. Walid Fitaihi was also detained during the sweeping crackdown in 2017. He was reportedly beaten, tortured and jailed, a source familiar with the situation told CNN in March. The US State Department told CNN on Friday that it had raised Fitaihi's case with the Saudi government. "We are in close communication with Mr. Fitaihi's family, and will continue to offer them all possible assistance. We have raised and continue to raise his case on a consistent basis with the Saudi government."In May and June 2018, several Read More – Source

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