DEARBORN – “At this point the family is really concerned that they might lose their father.”
Abdallah Moughni is the family attorney for the Salem family of Melvindale. He says they are scared because family man Mohamad Salem has been detained in Saudi Arabia for over a week.
Salem, a 63-year-old of Yemeni origin, traveled to Saudi Arabia with his two sons on November 1 to perform the Umrah pilgrimage at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
Moughni describes what happened:
“They were queuing to visit a certain place, at one point a security guard approached Mohammad and separated him from his two children, Mohammad was angry. He argued with them, but inevitably he was taken away from his two children. Two gentlemen approached Mohamad and said, “Hey, we’re from Libya, what just happened?” Mohammad, he was angry, looked at these two gentlemen and said: ‘If it weren’t for Mecca and Medina, we would burn this country down.’ The two men who spoke to Mohamad grabbed and arrested him. As it turned out, they were agents of Saudi Arabia.”
Salem’s two sons, in their 20s, are still waiting for their father in Saudi Arabia because they didn’t expect the arrest to take so long, according to Moughni.
“But it’s been over a week now and there’s no sign the dad is stepping out, in fact it’s only going to get worse,” Moughni said.
According to Moughni, Salem was recently transferred to a maximum-security prison known for housing terrorists in Saudi Arabia and allegedly had problems with the torture of its prisoners.
He says the embassy provided Salem’s family with a list of possible attorneys, but so far none have agreed to take the case and now they can’t have any contact with Salem at all.
“The family is appalled,” Moughni said. “The family is so worried that they will lose their father, there have been so many cases where someone spoke out against the government of Saudi Arabia and they ended up being imprisoned for a long time.”
Saudi Arabia is often criticized for low tolerance, in 2018 the government killed Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who often wrote negatively about the government in the Washington Post.
Moughni pointed out that the problem of wrongful detention of Americans extends even outside of Saudi Arabia, citing Michigandeer Paul Whelan and WNBA player Brittney Griner, both currently being held in Russian jails.
According to Moughni, Salem’s best shot at freedom is if this story gets enough publicity to reach President Joe Biden.
“When these laws provide outrageous, cruel and unusual penalties, we don’t have to sit back and say we agree with them,” Moughni said. “This is where the US government has to step in and say it’s too much.”