Melvindale man freed from prison in Saudi Arabia, headed home to reunite with family

It's been a month since a Melvindale man was detained during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. His family didn't know if they would see or hear from him again - but tonight - there's good news.

Mohamed Salem’s family got word after midnight Wednesday that he would be coming home, with the Saudis giving him a one-way ticket to Washington DC,  he’s now headed back to Detroit.

"Mohamad can’t wait to touch American soil," Abdallah Moughi. "He can’t wait to be with his family. They’re going to celebrate with his kids and his wife."

It’s been more than a month of misfortune for 63-year-old Mohamed Salem who was imprisoned while in Saudi Arabia performing Umrah, an Islamic pilgrimage.

He was arrested and held in a maximum-security prison.

"When you look up the stories of people who were in similar circumstances where they speak out against the Saudi government, they're spending a serious amount of time in prison, and they're fearing the worst," said Moughi.

As was Moughi, the family's Dearborn attorney, who says Salem was venting to undercover police after security guards separated him from his sons while visiting a sacred site. He said if it wasn’t for Medina and Mecca, they would burn this place to the ground.

"A few days ago they had finished their investigation and the family was little worried," the attorney said. "Mohamad had informed them that the investigation could’ve gone two ways: One way he is charged with a crime, and the other way he’s let free."

Moughni says getting Salem’s story to the press was crucial in the investigation going the latter route as was intervention from Rob Berschinski of the National Security Council, Senator Gary Peters, and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

"We spoke to Mohamad very briefly, he let us know that as soon as the Americans had taken this story seriously, as soon as it had gotten popularized and had spread over to Saudi Arabia, he got special treatment," Moughni said. "They started taking care of him a little better."

If only every American held overseas were so fortunate.

Wendell Brown spent three years in a Chinese prison for defending himself in a bar fight.

Novi resident Paul Whelan has been in a Russian prison since 2018 after being convicted of espionage.

WNBA star Brittney Griner is being held in a Russian penal colony after being sentenced to nine years in prison for having vape pens containing cannabis oil.

As for Salem, he’s savoring freedom after tasting life without it.

"Mohamad made it clear to us that America is the greatest country in the world," said Moughni. "He is so grateful to live in this country where you have free speech and so many other constitutional rights."

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) provided this statement:

"I am very happy that Mr. Salem, a father of six children, is finally heading home to be reunited with his family. I thank the State Department for their work and partnership in getting him home. I hope that Mr. Salem and his family can take the upcoming days and weeks to recover from this horrific ordeal."

Salem’s flight should be landing soon.

Mohamed Salem

Mohamed Salem