The U.S. is seeking the release of an American citizen sentenced to 16 years in prison in Saudi Arabia for sending tweets critical of the regime.
The State Department confirmed that the man, Saad Ibrahim Almadi, had been sentenced earlier this week. Almadi, 72, is a retired project manager in Florida and had sent tweets “mildly” criticizing the Saudi regime during his years in the U.S., his son, Ibrahim Almadi, told The Washington Post.
“We have consistently and intensively raised our concerns regarding the case at senior levels of the Saudi government,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday. “The Saudi government understands the priority we attach to resolving this matter.”
“Exercising the freedom of expression should never be criminalized,” she added.
Ibrahim criticized the State Department’s handling of his father’s case, saying officials have made basic errors in their efforts to secure his release.
“I told the State Department his hearing was set for Oct. 3, and they should attend,” Ibrahim told WaPo. “Afterward, over the phone, they said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry we forgot to tell the embassy.’ I feel like they are just careless.”
Saudi authorities first arrested Almadi last year when he took a trip to the country to visit family.
The situation comes as relations between the U.S. and the Saudi government sour. President Biden blasted the country last week for its decision to cut oil production, potentially causing a spike in gas prices in the U.S.
Saudi officials say the Biden administration had requested the production cut to come roughly a month later, delaying any gas price surge until after midterm elections.