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U.S. Citizen Criticized Saudi Arabia in 14 Tweets. Now He’s Been Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison.

A Saudi Arabian court sentenced Saad Ibrahim Almadi to 16 years in prison earlier this month over tweets critical of the Saudi regime, his son told Western media outlets this week.

SO WHAT

President Joe Biden promised to get tough with Saudi Arabia, but the U.S. frenemy hasn’t exactly been acting scared.

WHAT HAPPENED

Almadi, a 72-year-old American citizen, was in Riyadh visiting family in November when the Saudi government under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman detained him, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The 14 objectionable tweets, which were posted while Almadi was living in Florida, contained references to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and criticisms of Saudi corruption and government policies.

  • Ibrahim Alamadi told the Post his father has been tortured in prison and accused the State Department of neglecting his case.
  • “I told the State Department his hearing was set for October 3 and they should attend. Afterward, over the phone, they said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry we forgot to tell the embassy,’ ” Ibrahim said. “I feel like they are just careless.”
  • If he serves his whole prison term, Saad Almadi will be 87 when he is freed, and will not be able to return to the U.S. until he is 104 due to a 16-year travel ban that was tacked onto his sentence.

“I feel empty inside. I feel dead inside. I feel betrayed,” Ibrahim said. “He’s not only my father, he’s my best friend. He is everything to me.”

BIG PICTURE

Critics say Biden has all but abandoned his 2020 campaign vow to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah,” and, amid a global energy crisis, cozied up to the oil-rich Middle Eastern nation.

The Biden administration has been quick to react to high-profile cases of Americans being jailed abroad, but has taken “a hands-off approach and resisted confronting Riyadh,” according to Washington Post reporter Josh Rogin.

  • “MBS is acting as if he believes or knows that the Biden administration won’t bring pressure on them regarding American prisoners, let alone oil and other issues,” Ali al-Ahmed, founder and director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, told the Post.
  • “The Biden White House’s inaction on American hostages in Saudi prisons led to the harshest sentence against an American abroad.”
  • Biden has faced fierce criticism for meeting with Salman in July.

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