The Saudi Arabian government sentenced a U.S. citizen to 16 years in prison over tweets critical of the regime, The Washington Post reports.
Saad Ibrahim Almadi, a 72-year-old project manager from Florida, was sentenced to 16 years behind bars over 14 tweets that he posted while inside the United States that were critical of the Saudi regime.
The tweets were posted over seven years. One of them referenced the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Other tweets criticized Saudi policies and corruption.
Almadi was detained while traveling to Riyadh to visit family members last November.
“He had what I would call mild opinions about the government,” his son Ibrahim told the Post. “They took him from the airport.”
Almadi was charged with harboring terrorist ideology, trying to destabilize the country, and supporting and funding terrorism.
Not only was Almadi sentenced to prison until he is 87 but the government banned him from traveling for an additional 16 years after that, meaning he would not be able to return to Florida until he is 104.
“I feel empty inside. I feel dead inside. I feel betrayed,” Ibrahim told the Post. “He’s not only my father, he’s my best friend. He is everything to me.”
He said he has been frustrated by the State Department’s handling of the matter and said his father was tortured in prison.
“I told the State Department his hearing was set for October 3 and they should attend. Afterward, over the phone, they said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry we forgot to tell the embassy,’ ” Ibrahim said. “I feel like they are just careless.”
State Department reaction:
“Unfortunately, that information wasn’t passed [to the embassy],” a State Department official admitted. “That is something we deeply regret.”
“We have consistently and regularly raised with Saudi officials our strong concerns over charges brought against Mr. Almadi and other American citizens for exercising what should be fundamental freedoms,” the official added. “Freedom of speech should never be criminalized.”