Saudi Arabia frees US national sentenced to 16 years in prison

Cairo, Mar 21 (EFE).- Authorities in Saudi Arabia have released a US citizen from prison more than a year after he was convicted and given 16 years in jail over tweets critical of the government.

Saad Almadi, 72, who also has Saudi nationality, was arrested in November 2021.

His son, Ibrahim Saad, tweeted that his father had been “cleared of all charges.”

However, it was unknown if he has been banned from leaving the country, as often happens with dissidents released from Saudi prisons.

Responding to the news, Abdullah Alaoudh, Saudi director at the NGO Freedom Initiative, said they were “relieved” to hear Almadi has been set free.

“He should have never spent a day behind bars for innocuous tweets. There are far too many people in Saudi detention who don’t have the benefit of US citizenship to draw attention to their cases,” Alaoudh said.

The rights defender of the Washington-based non-profit said Almadi was “wrongfully detained, reportedly tortured, and released only after tireless campaigning by his son and international pressure.”

“Almadi’s release shows that strategic pressure works, and US officials should continue to press for release of prisoners and lifting of travel bans.”

Almadi was arrested as he visited his family in Saudi Arabia.

On Oct.3, 2022, a Saudi criminal court sentenced him to 16 years on “terrorism” charges in connection with 14 tweets critical of the Saudi government.

He had posted the tweets when he was in the United States, some of which go back seven years.

According to the Freedom Initiative, which advocates for prisoners “wrongfully” detained in the Middle East and North Africa, at least six US persons are currently held or trapped under politically motivated travel bans in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has also escalated its crackdown on dissent abroad, including by targeting individuals on American soil, said the NGO.

Almadi’s release also comes days before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins, during which the NGO is launching a new campaign, Reunite Families.

The campaign will highlight the human cost of unjust detention and other forms of state repression in Egypt and Saudi Arabia – both US allies. EFE


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