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Saudi Arabia increases US citizen’s sentence to 19 years over tweets

February 9, 2023 at 4:40 pm

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R), US President Joe Biden (L) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on July 16, 2022 [Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency]

An appeals court in Saudi Arabia has increased the prison sentence of US citizen Saad Al-Madi over a series of political tweets from 16 years to 19 years, his son Ibrahim has revealed.

According to the New York Post, a State Department official informed Ibrahim of the decision after the White House publicly condemned his father’s detention after he was jailed in October 2022 over allegedly criticising the government in 14 tweets, the dual US-Saudi citizen was living in Florida when he uploaded the posts.

At the time of the initial sentencing, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “The Saudi government understands the priority we attach to resolving this matter. Exercising the freedom of expression should never be criminalized.”

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However, Ibrahim said the administration of President Joe Biden had “sold my father for oil”, “Especially when we saw the news last week about them asking to delay OPEC [oil export cuts] decision per month.” His comments were in reference to the Saudi-led OPEC+ announcement to cut oil production by two per cent, effectively ignoring the Biden administration’s pleas to increase output to lower gasoline prices, amid strained tensions between Riyadh and Washington.

Ibrahim was quoted by the Post regarding the additional sentencing as saying: “It’s not a slap in the face, it’s a middle finger. When the US asked for an appeal, they said: ‘Here you go, 19 years!’”

In its report, the Post noted that the State Department has stopped short of designating Al-Madi as “wrongfully detained”, which would imply a more concerted effort by Washington to add pressure on the Saudis.

“We are at a time when we sweep our American values and human rights values under the carpet … because we care about interest in our oil,” Ibrahim told the newspaper.

In a message to Biden, Al-Madi’s son said: “Mr. President, we can protect our interests in that region and we can protect our senior American citizen taxpayer too. My father needs to be declared wrongfully detained and released from prison — or otherwise his blood will be on your hands.”

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