KSA sentences US citizen to 16 years over tweets critical of regime
KSA's move is yet another manifestation of the Kingdom's aggressive crackdown on any hint of criticism expressed on social media.
The Saudi Kingdom sentenced an American citizen to 16 years in prison for criticizing the Saudi regime in a tweet, in yet another example of the Kingdom's aggressive crackdown on any hint of dissent posted on social media.
Saad Ibrahim Almadi, 72, a dual US-Saudi national, was detained in Riyadh in November 2021 after arriving for a two-week work and personal trip in his own country.
This is the second recorded instance of a Saudi citizen residing overseas being detained upon their return for using social media.
Salma Al-Shehab, a Saudi student studying at Leeds University in the United Kingdom, was sentenced to 34 years in prison for maintaining a Twitter account and following and retweeting dissidents and activists. After returning home for the holidays, she was caught and convicted.
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Al-Shehab's sentence was handed down by Saudi Arabia's so-called "special terrorism court" just weeks after US President Joe Biden's visit to the Kingdom, which human rights activists warned could give Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) a green light to intensify his crackdown on dissidents and pro-democracy activists.
Prosecutors in Almadi's case centered on 14 tweets written by the American during a seven-year period when he was residing in Florida, including remarks referencing Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist slain at the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul in 2018.
Almadi's son, Ibrahim, told The Guardian that Saudi agents took his father from the airport and held him at a hotel while they checked his phone, which contained images of caricatures of Saudi officials, including a drawing of a bloated and overweight Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince.
Saad Almadi’s story was first reported in a column in The Washington Post.
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Ibrahim said his father was only using his right to free speech when he posted critical tweets. While he was aware of the Saudi crackdown on dissent, Ibrahim said his father felt secure returning to Saudi for a short visit because of his American citizenship and because he belonged to a well-connected tribe in Saudi culture.
"Untouchable. That’s what he thought. But no one is untouchable under MBS. Not even God,” Ibrahim said. “He was trapped.”
The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment.
On August 30, court records reviewed by a human rights organization show that a Saudi Arabian woman, Nourah bint Saeed Al-Qahtani, has been sentenced to decades in jail for using social media to "violate the public order" by the country's terrorism court.
A specialized criminal court found Al-Qahtani guilty of allegedly "using the internet to tear [Saudi Arabia's] social fabric" and sentenced her to 45 years in prison as a result, according to documents obtained and examined by Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn).
Dawn informed The Guardian of its findings, which the latter said had been corroborated by Saudi sources, in hopes that the public would be able to shed light on Al-Qahtani's case.
Last year, Saudi activist Loujain Al-Hathloul announced that she will sue three former US officials who worked in the US intelligence and military, noting that they hacked her mobile phone so that a foreign government could spy on her before she was imprisoned and tortured by Saudi authorities.
The Saudi kingdom is known for several human rights violations against not only journalists but anyone who speaks up against the violent regime and its ways. The names mentioned are but a drop in the sea od violations against the freedom of speech. However, the state that speaks in the name of "democracy" chose and still chooses to turn a blind eye to avoid any harsh consequences against the oil-rich country.
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