Saudi Arabia sentences U.S. citizen to 16 years in prison for tweets

By | October 18, 2022

Josh Rogin writes:

The Saudi government has sentenced a 72-year-old U.S. citizen to 16 years in prison for tweets he posted while inside the United States, some of which were critical of the Saudi regime. His son, speaking publicly for the first time, alleges that the Saudi government has tortured his father in prison and says that the State Department mishandled the case.

Many dictatorships unjustly imprison Americans. But while the Biden administration has gone to considerable effort to secure the release of high-profile Americans from Russia, Venezuela and Iran, it has been less public and less successful in securing the release of U.S. citizens held in Saudi Arabia. In fact, despite that Saudi Arabia is supposedly a U.S. ally, the Saudi government under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is dealing with its U.S.-citizen critics more harshly than ever. The latest and most egregious example concerns Saudi American Saad Ibrahim Almadi.

Almadi is not a dissident or an activist; he is simply a project manager from Florida who decided to practice his right to free speech inside the United States. But last November, when he traveled to Riyadh to visit family, he was detained regarding 14 tweets posted on his account over the previous seven years. One of the cited tweets referenced Jamal Khashoggi, the Post contributing columnist who was murdered by Saudi agents in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Other tweets criticized the Saudi government’s policies and the corruption in the Saudi system.

“He had what I would call mild opinions about the government,” his son Ibrahim told me. “They took him from the airport.”

Almadi was charged with harboring a terrorist ideology, trying to destabilize the kingdom, as well as supporting and funding terrorism. He was also charged with failing to report terrorism, a charge related to tweets Ibrahim sent on a separate account.

On Oct. 3, Almadi was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He also received a 16-year travel ban on top of that. If he serves his whole sentence, he will leave prison at age 87 — and would have to live to 104 before he could return to the United States.

“I feel empty inside. I feel dead inside. I feel betrayed,” Ibrahim said. “He’s not only my father, he’s my best friend. He is everything to me.”

Since the arrest, Ibrahim had been working behind the scenes to urge the U.S. government to help secure his father’s release. But now, frustrated and desperate, he wants the American public to know his father’s story. Almadi has been tortured in prison, forced to live in squalor and confined with actual terrorists — all while his family was threatened by the Saudi government that they would lose everything if they didn’t keep quiet, Ibrahim said.

The State Department told Ibrahim not to speak publicly about the case, but he no longer believes that staying quiet will secure his father’s freedom. And he says that State has handled his father’s case with neglect and incompetence. [Continue reading…]

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