Boston attorney works to help free doctor from Saudi prison.


Byline: Kris Olson

In theory, the plight of Dr. Walid Fitaihi should be quickly resolved, Boston attorney Howard M. Cooper says.

"It should be a telephone call," Cooper says, pointing to the good relationship that President Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly enjoy with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi royal family.

Fitaihi, a dual citizen of Saudi Arabia and the United States, was part of a roundup of about 200 prominent Saudis in what the government said was a crackdown on corruption in November 2017. He has been detained since.

After about a week of being held at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, Fitaihi was dragged into a separate room and slapped, blindfolded, stripped to his underwear, and bound to a chair before being shocked in an hour-long torture session, according to an account given to the New York Times by a friend. Fitaihi was then taken to the al-Ha'ir Prison outside Riyadh.

The nature of the charges Fitaihi is facing is unclear. One theory is that Fitaihi has been interrogated to try to build a case against a relative by marriage who was a former advisor to bin Salman who had fallen out of favor.

Most of Fitaihi's family is also still in Saudi Arabia, though they desperately want to return to the United States, where Fitaihi spent two decades getting an education undergraduate and medical degrees from George Washington University and a master's degree from the Harvard School of Public Health and building a successful career as an endocrinologist.

Fitaihi's family has had their passports confiscated and have been told not to leave the country, though two of Fitaihi's children who were not in Saudi Arabia at the time of his arrest are "spearheading the effort" to gain his release, according to Cooper.

Fitaihi's long-held dream of returning to Saudi Arabia and using his family's wealth to build a hospital was realized in 2006, when the International Medical Centre opened in the port city of Jeddah. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and the late Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz attended the opening.

"That was a significant honor for him," Cooper says.

Fitaihi also built a reputation as a motivational speaker, discussing wellness and mental health issues on Saudi television. His speeches and programs have been viewed millions of times online, Cooper says.

While Fitaihi's detention has not spawned protests in Saudi Arabia, given the society's nature, his arrest had captured the attention of slain Washington Post...

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