US condemns Saudi court ruling over government critics on Twitter

A court in Saudi Arabia upheld a 20-year prison sentence handed down on a Saudi aid worker who criticized the government on Twitter.

The court’s ruling drew a rare public condemnation of the United States, implying renewed tensions between the Biden administration and the Saudi kingdom.

The ruling, which was confirmed Wednesday evening (6/10), also confirmed a 20-year travel ban on Abdulrahman al-Sadhan following his release.

The case against al-Sadhan is widely thought to have its roots in a scandal in Silicon Valley that sparked a federal case against two Twitter employees accused of spying for Saudi Arabia. The two men allegedly accessed the user data of more than 6,000 Twitter accounts, including about 30 usernames the kingdom wanted to dismantle.

Al-Sadhan’s family said his identity appeared to be among those leaked to Saudi authorities. Al-Sadhan was later identified as the man behind an anonymous Arabic-language Twitter account that has a large following and often criticizes the government.

The al-Sadhan case is the latest example of an ongoing crackdown on those who criticize the Saudi government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The court ruling also shows the extent to which the authorities have silenced them.

The al-Sadhan case has come under the spotlight because of the severity of the sentence and its possible links to the FBI investigation and a federal case in California against two men accused of spying for the Saudi kingdom while working on Twitter.

Judges at a Saudi appeals court handed down their verdict Tuesday. They backed an earlier court ruling that sentenced al-Sadhan to 20 years in prison, followed by an equally lengthy travel ban, meaning the 37-year-old won’t be fully released until he is in his seventies.

Al-Sadhan’s younger sister Areej, who is a dual Saudi-US citizen and lives in California, confirmed the ruling to the Associated Press on Wednesday.

He said his younger brother was not an activist, but was well aware of the economic challenges young Saudi men and women face because of his profession as an aid worker. He said his brother disappeared in March 2018 after plainclothes security officers entered the Red Crescent office in Riyadh, where he works. The family did not hear from him for almost two years, until February 2020.

During that period, al-Sadhan’s family received word that he was being held in a secret location and subjected to various offences: beatings, electric shocks, sleep deprivation, verbal and sexual assault.

The US State Department, which rarely comments on individual cases of Saudi human rights activists, said in a statement Wednesday that it was disappointed with the court’s ruling, saying that “the peaceful exercise of universal rights should never be considered a violation of the law.” punishable.”

US State Department spokesman, Ned Price.

US State Department spokesman, Ned Price.

“We have been monitoring his case closely and are concerned about allegations that al-Sadhan was subjected to abuse, that he was unable to communicate with family members, and that his guarantee of a fair trial was not respected,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Price said the US would continue to increase the role of human rights in relations with Saudi Arabia. He also said the United States would continue to push for legal reforms that promote respect for the human rights of all individuals.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, said in a Twitter post that she was concerned about the enforcement of the brutal sentence.

“Saudi Arabia’s attacks on freedom of expression and human rights violations must be condemned by all freedom-loving people,” Pelosi said. [ab/uh]

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