Anti-kingdom tweets: Saudi Arabia jails US citizen for 16 years
Saudi Arabia sentenced an elderly US citizen of Saudi origin to 16 years for his old tweets critical of the kingdom. The US government said on Tuesday it was raising the issue with Saudi Arabia after his son claimed that he was being tortured. Saad Ibrahim Almadi (72) was arrested last year in November when he was visiting his family in the country.
Why does this story matter?
- Tensions spiked between long-term allies the US and Saudi Arabia, especially since the latter is growing closer to China and Russia.
- Reports said Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) had approved the plan under which US-based columnist and Saudi insider-turned-critic Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate in 2018.
- US President Joe Biden blamed MBS for Khashoggi's death.
US citizens are incensed over the sentence
This is outrageous. A 72-year-old U.S. citizen was sentenced to 16 years in prison and subject to torture in *Saudi Arabia* for years-old tweets he posted while in the United States. His son is accusing the State Department of mishandling the case. https://t.co/RiUEvKZ1lC pic.twitter.com/x1bFuHkQsN— Sarah McLaughlin (@sarahemclaugh) October 18, 2022
Tweets criticized corruption, Khashoggi's murder
The US State Department confirmed reports of Almadi's sentencing. His son Ibrahim said that he was charged with supporting and funding terrorism in order to destabilize the kingdom. The Saudi government flagged 14 of his "mild" tweets posted over seven years against the Saudi government mentioning corruption and the murder of Khashoggi. After the sentence, he will face a travel ban for 16 years.
No US representative present at hearing
Almadi lived in Florida and is a retired project manager. No US representative was present at the hearing as the Saudi government originally gave a later date before preponing it, US State Department said. The department heard back from the Saudi government only after October 3 — the day the sentence was pronounced — that too without furnishing any details of the sentence.
The date of hearing was moved up: State Department
4/ Saudi Arabia's ruler isn't satisfied with absolute power at home.— John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton) October 17, 2022
He treats everyone of Saudi origin like his absolute subjects.
Even US Citizens that live in Florida.
And these arrests-for-tweets show that he's feeling increasingly emboldened.
Crackdown on dissenting voices
In August, a Saudi court sentenced a woman, Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani, to 45 years in prison accusing her of damaging the country using social media. She has no history of activism. Earlier in August, a Saudi doctoral student at the University of Leeds in England, Salma ah-Shehab, was sentenced to 34 years in prison for spreading rumors and retweeting dissidents.