BEIRUT, Lebanon — Five months after Saudi Arabia released a doctor with dual Saudi-American citizenship from jail, he and seven family members remain barred from leaving the kingdom while he stands trial on charges the United States contends are meritless, a son and a senior State Department official said.
The Saudi authorities detained the doctor, Walid Fitaihi, during what they called an anti-corruption campaign in late 2017 and released him pending trial last summer. He has told confidantes that Saudi jailers tortured him. The authorities have confiscated his family’s passports, leaving eight dual Saudi-American citizens stuck in the kingdom, the son and the official said.
“My family’s freedoms have been taken,” the son, Ahmad Fitaihi, 27, said by phone from California.
While United States diplomats have worked to restore the rights of Dr. Fitaihi and his family, President Trump has never spoken publicly of his case, leaving his son wondering why he has not received the same attention from the White House as other Americans detained abroad.
“President Trump has a great record in saving Americans, so why has he not saved my dad?” Ahmad Fitaihi said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Trump has called securing the release of Americans detained abroad a “priority” and vowed on Twitter last year: “We will not rest as we continue our work to bring the remaining American hostages back home!”
But not all cases appear to receive the same attention. Mr. Trump has taken pride in getting Americans released from countries such as Yemen, Turkey, Egypt and North Korea. Last month, he celebrated the release of Xiyue Wang, an American graduate student who had been imprisoned in Iran since 2016.
But he has not spoken publicly about Moustafa Kassem, an American who died in Egypt this month after six years in detention and a hunger strike, nor criticized President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, whom he has jokingly called his “favorite dictator.”
At least two dual Saudi-United States citizens are detained in Saudi Arabia in addition to Dr. Fitaihi: Salah al-Haidar, the son of a prominent women’s rights activist, and Bader al-Ibrahim, a writer and medical doctor, according to Human Rights Watch. Both were detained last April.
Mr. Trump has not publicly spoken of them either, perhaps to avoid causing tension with Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Mr. Trump sees as a key partner in the Middle East.
A spokesman at the Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on Dr. Fitaihi’s status. Saudi officials have said that the kingdom does not torture people.
Dr. Fitaihi, a Harvard-trained physician, was born in Saudi Arabia but became a United States citizen while living and working in the Boston area. He returned to the kingdom around 2006, where he opened a private hospital and became a motivational speaker.
He was arrested in November 2017 during a sweep of arrests that Saudi officials described as an anti-corruption campaign. But while most of the hundreds of princes, former officials and businessmen who were arrested then and locked in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton were released within a few months, Dr. Fitaihi was transferred to prison and held for 21 months before he was released pending trial last July.
The senior State Department official said Dr. Fitaihi faces charges including obtaining United States citizenship without permission from the Saudi government and working with an organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Islamic organization that Saudi Arabia — but not the United States or other Western nations — considers a terrorist group.
The senior official said that diplomats and other United States officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, had raised Dr. Fitaihi’s case with a range of Saudis, so far to no avail.
“We do not believe there is merit to the case,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under diplomatic protocols. He said the Saudis had presented no information that would justify Dr. Fitaihi’s incarceration or the travel ban facing him and other members of his family, which the official described as “sort-of collective punishment.”
Dr. Fitaihi’s son, Ahmad, said that his mother, Lana Angawi, was born in Texas and has American citizenship, as do his six younger siblings. The family once traveled to the United States every year or so for vacation; Newport Beach was a favorite spot.
Ahmad Fitaihi said a brother, Yusuf, 19, had planned to attend an American university after high school, and a sister, Mariam, 24, had planned to move to Britain, where she earned a master’s degree, to get engaged.
But after their father’s arrest, security officers came to their home and seized their passports, barring them from leaving the kingdom and putting their lives on hold. Their father’s assets were also frozen, Ahmad Fitaihi said, further limiting their options.
The family had initially been optimistic when their father was released, expecting that the charges against him would be dropped and that they would be able to travel.
But five months later, their father has returned to work while his court case proceeds, and they all remain stuck in Saudi Arabia, Ahmad Fitaihi said. His sister opted for a smaller engagement party in the kingdom, and his brother has applied to several American universities, hoping the travel ban will be lifted by fall.
“My whole family’s social and financial situation has been flipped upside down,” Mr. Fitaihi said.
The next session in Dr. Fitaihi’s court case is scheduled for Feb. 2.