As the rest of the media quite correctly touts the causes of Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, two Americans inexcusably imprisoned by Russia’s murderous Vladimir Putin, maybe they could spare a few words for American Bassem Awadallah, who has been improperly and brutally imprisoned in Jordan for more than 34 months.
For just as long, American media gatekeepers have studiously avoided Dr. Awadallah’s cause, even as the Biden administration has worked only fecklessly behind the scenes to try to secure his release. But President Joe Biden meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Feb. 12. He should absolutely insist, quite publicly, that King Abdullah release Awadallah immediately to U.S. custody, even if it takes agreeing to impose a travel ban on Awadallah that keeps him away from the Middle East.
King Abdullah owes a lot to the U.S., which provides copious aid that props up his kingdom. He also is fortunate that the U.S. government hasn’t moved more forcefully to investigate the king’s finances and threaten his ritzy property holdings in this country.
Meanwhile, Awadallah probably is innocent of the bizarre “sedition” charges leveled against him. He absolutely has been denied any reasonable attempt to prove his innocence, as his advocates insist without serious dispute that he was “convicted” in a sham trial without being allowed to present witnesses or exculpatory evidence on his behalf or even to examine the alleged evidence against him.
And that trial allegedly came “after [Awadallah was] subjected to physical and mental torture, blindfolded, and forced to sign blank pieces of paper, abused, and threatened with harm to him and his family,” according to the entirely believable account of his sister, Fida Awadallah Lloyd.
“During his imprisonment,” his sister continued, in a Feb. 8 letter to Biden, “[Awadallah’s] health has been adversely affected and he had to be rushed to the hospital multiple times for medical attention. Additionally, my father, who is almost 90 years old, and I, have been unable to see him since his arrest, because we have been advised by [the State Department] that it will be unsafe for us to go to Jordan.”
As Ms. Awadallah Lloyd notes in her letter, the U.S. sometimes successfully secures the repatriation of American citizens imprisoned by adversaries, “so it should not be difficult to get a U.S. citizen released from an ally.”
For all those reasons, Biden should stop acting like a supplicant and instead demand Awadallah’s release. Meanwhile, American media mavens should stop averting their eyes and start raising Awadallah’s case to the same status as that of Gershkovich and Whelan. A U.S. citizen is a U.S. citizen, even if he is not a former Marine or a fellow journalist. And a U.S. administration has a duty to stand up for U.S. citizens being abused by foreign nations.