DEARBORN — "At this point the family is genuinely worried that they might lose their father."
Abdallah Moughni is the family attorney for the Salem family from Melvindale, he says they are terrified because the family father, Mohamad Salem, has been detained in Saudi Arabia for over a week.
Salem, a 63-year-old of Yemeni origin, was traveling with his two sons to Saudi Arabia on November 1st to perform the umrah pilgrimage at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
Moughni describes what took place:
"They were in line waiting to visit a certain spot, at some point a security guard came up to Mohammad and separated him from his two children, Mohammad was furious. He argued with them, but inevitably he was taken away from his two kids. Two gentlemen approached Mohamad and said ‘Hey, we’re from Libya, what just happened?’ Mohammad, he was enraged, looked at these two gentlemen and said ‘Had it not been for Mecca and Medina, we would burn this country to the ground.' The two men who were talking to Mohamad, grabbed him and arrested him. Turns out, they were agents of Saudi Arabia."
Salem's two sons in their 20's are still in Saudi Arabia waiting for their father because according to Moughni they didn't think the arrest would last this long.
"But now it’s been well over a week and there’s no sign that there father is going to get out, in fact it’s only getting worse," said Moughni.
Moughni says Salem has recently been moved to a high security prison known for housing terrorists of Saudi Arabia and has allegedly had issues with torturing its prisoners.
He says the embassy had provided Salem's family with a list of possible lawyers but so far none had agreed to take the case, and now they can have no contact with Salem whatsoever.
"The family is terrified," said Moughni. "The family is so worried that they’re going to lose their father, there’s been so many instances where anybody speaks out against the Saudi Arabia government and they end up being imprisoned for a long period of time."
Saudi Arabia is often criticized for having 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 the problem with wrongful imprisonment of americans even goes outside of Saudi, referencing Michigandeer Paul Whelan and WNBA player Brittney Griner who are both currently being held in Russian prison.
Moughni says Salem's best chance of freedom is this story gaining enough public attention to reach President Joe Biden.
"When these laws have outrageous, cruel, and unusual punishments, we do not have to sit back and say we agree with them," said Moughni. "That’s where the U.S. government needs to step in and say that this is too much."