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Biden tells Riyadh that freedom of expression should not be criminalised

October 20, 2022 at 10:28 am

President Joe Biden in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States on September 05, 2022 [Heather Mull/Anadolu Agency]

The Biden administration in Washington has basically told Saudi Arabia that freedom of expression should never be criminalised. Commenting on US citizen Saad Ibrahim Al-Madi, 72, being sentenced to 16 years in prison after he criticised the Saudi regime in some tweets posted while he was in America, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed his detention in the Kingdom.

“We are closely following his case,” added Jean-Pierre. “We have consistently and intensively raised our concerns regarding the case at senior levels of the Saudi government, which understands the priority we attach to resolving this matter.”

Al-Madi was arrested by the Saudi authorities while visiting his family in Riyadh last November. According to Josh Rogin writing in the Washington Post, he was arrested for fourteen tweets posted over a period of seven years. “One of the cited tweets referenced Jamal Khashoggi, the Post contributing columnist who was murdered by Saudi agents in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. His tweets criticised the Saudi government’s policies and the corruption in the Saudi system.”

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The writer quoted the son of the dual Saudi-US citizen as saying that, “He had what I would call mild opinions about the government.” Al-Madi’s son pointed out that his father was detained when he arrived at the airport in the Saudi capital. He also alleged that his father has been tortured in prison, and accused the State Department in Washington of mishandling the case, given that his father holds US citizenship.

Al-Madi was charged with harbouring a terrorist ideology and trying to destabilise the Kingdom, as well as supporting and funding terrorism. He was also charged with failing to report terrorism.