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Chair Cardin Highlights Stories of Arbitrarily Detained Vladyslav Yesypenko and Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan

WASHINGTON – In his first media event as Chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) continued his practice of highlighting the plight of political prisoners around the world. At a recent sit-down meeting with reporters, Chair Cardin introduced media to the stories of Vladyslav Yesypenko and Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan, two men who are being arbitrarily detained, and have shown signs of being tortured by authorities in Saudi Arabia and occupied Crimea. Both men were arrested after exercising their basic human rights and freedom of expression, including to free speech. Read more about their stories below.

Cardin: “Upholding America’s values – democracy, human rights, anti-corruption, and good governance – is essential to our foreign policy and national security. As Senate Foreign Relations Chair, I will continue to make sure that we never lose track of the people who have lost their freedoms and, in some cases, their lives, for standing up for the truth.”

Vladyslav Yesypenko

Vladyslav Yesypenko

Vladyslav Yesypenko, a dual Ukrainian-Russian citizen who contributed to Crimea. Realities, a regional news outlet of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, was detained by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) in Simferopol on March 10, 2021, on bogus charges of collecting information for Ukrainian intelligence.

Yesypenko left Crimea for free Ukraine with his family following the 2014 Russian occupation, returning periodically to report for RFE/RL on the social and environmental situation on the peninsula. On July 15, 2021, Yesypenko was charged with “possession and transport of explosives,” a charge he has steadfastly rejected. On February 16, 2022, a Russian judge in occupied Crimea sentenced Yesypenko to six years in prison in a penal colony and a fine of 110,000 rubles ($1,835). On August 18, 2022, the Moscow-controlled Supreme Court of Crimea shortened Yesypenko’s prison term by one year to five years.

During his trial, Yesypenko testified that he was tortured with electric shocks to extract a false confession. In November 2022, a Ukrainian prosecutor launched criminal proceedings against an FSB officer over Yesypenko’s unlawful detention and torture. Yesypenko is the recipient of a Free Media Award from the Fritt Ord Foundation and ZEIT-Stiftung for his reporting in Crimea following its illegal annexation by Russia. In 2022, he received the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.

This information was provided by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan

Abdulraham Al-Sadhan

Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan is a Saudi citizen who has spent a significant amount of time living in the United States, attending college at Notre Dame de Namur University in California. He returned to Saudi Arabia in 2014 as a humanitarian aid worker for the Red Crescent Society.

In 2011, Abdulrahman created an anonymous, satirical Twitter account while he was living in the United States, using it to post mild criticism of the Saudi government. On March 12, 2018, Abdulrahman was the victim of enforced disappearance. It was not until 2020 that Abdulrahman was able to call his father for a one-minute phone call. Shortly thereafter, he was allowed a family visit from his father for the first and only time. During the visit, he showed signs of severe torture, including numerous physical deformities in his hands and feet as well as trouble walking properly. Abdulrahman told his father that he had been tortured with electric shocks, flogging, and suspended stress positions.

In 2020, Abdulrahman was sentenced to twenty years in prison, to be followed by a twenty-year travel ban, after he was convicted of violating Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism law. The law is routinely used in the Saudi legal system to target peaceful critics of the government. Abdulrahman has since been held incommunicado, and his family has no information on his whereabouts or health. On April 5, 2022, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Abdulrahman’s detention is arbitrary.

This information was gathered by the Sadhan Family and The Freedom Initiative.