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US woman detained for trying to leave Saudi Arabia with daughter

Saudi Arabia has detained an American woman who has struggled for years to get her young daughter out of the kingdom over the objections of her Saudi ex-husband, according to US officials and a US-based advocacy group on Tuesday .

Carly Morris was called to a police station in the north-central city of Buradah on Monday, and has yet to be released by Saudi authorities, according to the Washington-based Freedom Initiative. The group advocates for those they believe are unfairly detained in the Middle East.

US officials said Saudi authorities have confirmed the custody of Morris, whose efforts to leave the kingdom with their now 8-year-old daughter have been made more difficult by Saudi Arabia’s strict male guardianship laws. Morris had spoken to reporters in recent months and tweeted about his circumstances.

“Our embassy in Riyadh is very busy with this matter, and they are following the situation very closely,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in Washington on Tuesday.

The Saudi embassy in Washington and the foreign ministry did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

under Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is increasingly involving US citizens and Western-based Saudis, whom the government sees as rivals or critics.

In August, a Saudi court sentenced to 16 years in prison Saad al-Maadi, a 72-year-old Saudi-American, for critical tweets he posted over the years from his home in Florida.

Freedom Initiative Saudi Arabia case manager Bethany Al-Haidari said Morris had traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2019 with the intention of allowing her daughter, also a US citizen, to visit the family of the Saudi father.

Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship code served to keep the daughter in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia reportedly placed itself under one of its widely imposed travel restrictions, barring Morris from leaving the country.

Morris recently warned other women with children abroad about Saudi Arabia, Al Haidari said.

President Biden was sworn in as a candidate to isolate Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, over the rights abuses. The Biden administration now hopes to persuade the state to pump more oil to the global market, and has worked to close the rift between the two strategic partners.

Freedom Initiative research director Allison McManus said the US woman’s detention is “another sign” that Saudi Arabia does not value the US as an ally.

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