Saudi Arabia released on Monday a US citizen sentenced to 19 years in jail for having tweeted critical messages against the leaders of the regime.
Saad Ibrahim Almadi, 72 years old and of Saudi originwas arrested in 2021 for a series of messages that his son said expressed “moderate” views about rocket attacks by Houthis from Yemen and his support for a street in Washington being named after Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist murdered in 2018 inside the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
In October, a court decreed 16 years in prison for Almadi, a sentence that was extended in February to 19 years before his surprise release on Tuesday, his son Ibrahim explained.
“He was released five hours ago. He is at his house in Riyadh,” Ibrahim told Afp by telephone from the United States. Saad Ibrahim cannot leave the country due to a travel restriction he received last year.
The Almadi case deepened the differences between Riyadh and Washingtontwo long-standing allies who have clashed in recent times over issues such as human rights or the oil production cuts decreed by OPEC+, led by Saudi Arabia.
The US State Department said last year that it had “consistently and intensely” expressed its concern about the case to the Saudi government and defended that “exercising freedom of expression should never be criminalized”.
Saudi authorities have yet to comment on Almadi’s release, which comes after the US Senate last week confirmed Michael Ratney as Ambassador to Riyadh after two years of vacancy in the post.
The American non-governmental organization Freedom Initiative has applauded the release of Almadi and the agency’s director, Abdullah Al Aud, has stressed that “he should never have spent a day behind bars for some innocuous ‘tweets’.”
“There are too many people detained in Saudi Arabia who do not have the benefit of US citizenship for their cases to receive attention. Almadi was wrongly detained, tortured and released only after a tireless campaign by his son and international pressure,” he denounced.