US citizen given 16-year prison sentence in Saudi Arabia over tweets after State Dept. bungles case: family
A dual U.S.-Saudi citizen was sentenced to 16 years in prison in Saudi Arabia earlier this month for what his family claims were 14 tweets he made while in the U.S. that were critical of the Saudi government.
Saad Ibrahim Almadi, 72, has been tortured since receiving the hefty sentence on Oct. 3, which carried an additional 16-year travel ban, Almadi’s son, Ibrahim Almadi, told The Washington Post. His son also claimed the U.S. State Department bungled his father’s case.
“I told the State Department his hearing was set for Oct. 3, and they should attend,” Ibrahim said. “Afterward, over the phone, they said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry we forgot to tell the embassy.’ I feel like they are just careless.”
A senior State Department official who spoke to The Washington Post confirmed that the consular affairs office in Washington, D.C., failed to alert the embassy about Almadi’s hearing date, even though Ibrahim had notified them, which the official said “is something we deeply regret.”
“I feel empty inside. I feel dead inside. I feel betrayed,” Ibrahim told The Washington Post. “He’s not only my father, he’s my best friend. He is everything to me.”
The allegedly errant tweets from Almadi, a retired project manager from Florida, spanned seven years and offered “mild” criticism of the Saudi government and its alleged corruption, according to Ibrahim. He maintained that his father was not an activist, but a private citizen expressing his opinion while in the U.S., where freedom of speech is enshrined in the Constitution.
Ibrahim claimed Saudi officials told his family to keep tight-lipped about his father’s case and keep the U.S. government out of it. After his family contacted the State Department in March, he said his father was tortured.
Ibrahim, who decided to go public with his father’s ordeal this week, also claimed the State Department has neglected his father’s situation by not declaring him a “wrongfully detained” American citizen, which would elevate his case in the eyes of the U.S. government and provide more resources for getting him out.
“They manipulated me. They told me to stay quiet, so they can get him out,” Ibrahim said. “I am not willing to take a gamble on the Department of State anymore.”
State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel confirmed Almadi’s imprisonment Tuesday.
“We have consistently and intensively raised our concerns regarding the case at senior levels of the Saudi government, both through channels in Riyadh and Washington, D.C., as well, and we will continue to do so,” he told reporters. “We have raised this with members of the Saudi government as recently as yesterday.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.