A Saudi-American citizen has been sentenced to prison in Saudi Arabia after being arrested for tweets critical of the kingdom.
The United States confirmed on Tuesday that an American had been sentenced to prison in Saudi Arabia for tweets critical of the kingdom and claimed to have raised his case with the Saudis, a case which adds to the tensions between these two countries allies.
According to the “Washington Post”, Saad Ibrahim Almadi, a 72-year-old American citizen of Saudi origin, was tortured and then sentenced in early October to 16 years in prison, a sentence to be followed for the next 16 years by a ban on leaving the territory. His son confirmed these details to AFP.
The State Department said Washington spoke to the Saudis about his case as early as December and again as recently as Monday. “We have consistently and intensely raised our concerns about this matter at a high level within the Saudi government, through communication channels in Riyadh and Washington,” the spokesperson for the department said. State, Vedant Patel, to the press. “The exercise of freedom of expression should never be criminalized,” he continued.
The State Department said no U.S. representative was present for the sentencing on Oct. 3, as Saudi authorities set another date for the hearing before moving it forward. “We only heard from the Saudi government after the October 3 date,” Vedant Patel said, without further details.
However, in the “Washington Post”, the son of Saad Ibrahim Almadi claimed to have alerted the American authorities about the hearing. According to the daily, Saad Ibrahim Almadi, who lives in Florida and had traveled to Saudi Arabia to visit his family, was arrested in November at the airport for 14 tweets written over the past seven years.
The offending tweets contained opinions about corruption in Saudi Arabia and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, the dismembered Saudi journalist inside the compound of his country’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018, according to Saad’s son Ibrahim Almadi. He was notably charged with supporting terrorism and attempting to destabilize the kingdom, according to the same source.
Before being elected, President Joe Biden pledged to treat Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” due to the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. But this summer, he paid a visit to the country during which he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A move highly criticized by human rights defenders, according to whom Washington has ceded ground for economic reasons in particular, oil in mind.
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