Saad Madi, a Saudi-American citizen, accidentally became the latest link in a series of problems between Riyadh and Washington, after the US State Department announced that he was being held in Saudi Arabia, while reports indicated that he received a heavy prison sentence. for tweets critical of Riyadh.
The past is 72 years old, and he was arrested for tweets, some of which date back seven years, according to Washington-based Saudi activist and Gulf Institute director and founder Ali Al-Ahmad.
Al-Ahmad told Al-Hurra that Al-Madi visited Riyadh several times in recent years, but he was not arrested, even though those tweets were on his account.
Al-Mady believes that “something has changed,” either in “Saudi Arabia’s security doctrine” or “in the priorities of arrests it makes,” adding that “Saudi Arabia arrests people to intimidate others.”
According to this principle, Riyadh may in fact signal a new era of coldness to Washington, or to American-Saudi activists that they will be held responsible for criticizing Riyadh.
Author Josh Rogen, writing in the Washington Post, says that while the Biden administration has made major efforts to secure the release of prominent Americans from Russia, Venezuela and Iran, it has been less public and less successful in securing the release of Securing US citizens detained in Saudi Arabia. .
Indeed, although Saudi Arabia is supposed to be an ally of the United States, the Saudi government led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is treating its critics among American citizens more harshly than ever before.
Al-Madi’s son, Ibrahim, says the Saudi government tortured his father in prison, and accuses the State Department of mishandling the case.
Al-Madi is not considered a prominent activist, or an activist in the first place, and these tweets represent the bulk of the indictment, according to activist Ali Al-Ahmad, who is familiar with the matter.
Al-Ahmad adds that other charges include harboring and dealing with terrorists.
He says that “Ibn Saad al-Madhi, who lives in the United States, is an activist who writes tweets opposing the regime, and the Saudi government has accused his father of harboring him and treating him as a terrorist handle, while he is only a father whose son lives with him.”
He adds that the father’s tweets are “very moderate” and “he praised the crown prince in some of them, but he criticized the way the Saudi administration and some governments practice and called for more freedom for women.”
Al-Ahmad is a well-known Saudi activist, and he says that “the Saudi authorities asked Saad Al-Madhi about his relationship with Al-Ahmad.”
Al-Madhi, a project manager in Florida, is responsible for 14 tweets posted over the years.
According to Al-Ahmad, last November, when he was arrested, Al-Madhi had traveled to Saudi Arabia to see his family and dispose of financial assets.
One of the tweets for which he was arrested mentions the murder of the well-known Saudi activist and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
“He had what I would call moderate views of the government, and he was arrested at the airport,” his son told the Washington Post.
On October 3, Al-Madhi was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He also received a 16-year travel ban and if he serves his full sentence, he will leave prison at the age of 87, and will have to live to be 104 years old before he can return to the United States.
Activist Al-Ahmad says the sentence could increase when the case reaches the appeals court, as has happened several times before.
He adds, “In the family of the previous officials and even security men, he believed that he was somehow protected, but after 2015, the Saudi security doctrine changed dramatically, and it is getting worse day by day, and it becoming more and more cruel.”
His son said the father was tortured in prison, forced to live in squalor and held alongside real-life terrorists, all while his family was threatened by the Saudi government that they would lose everything if they didn’t keep quiet.
The State Department asked Ibrahim not to speak publicly about the case, but he no longer believed that remaining silent would guarantee his father’s freedom, according to the Washington Post. He says the United States treated his father’s case with neglect and incompetence.
No one from the US embassy in Riyadh visited Al-Maddy until May, six months after his arrest, according to Al-Ahmad. At that meeting, Al-Madi refused to ask the US government to intervene, according to the Washington Post.
Ibrahim said Saudi prisons threaten to torture inmates who implicate foreign governments in their cases.
At a second consular meeting in August, Al-Madhi requested the State Department’s assistance in his case. Then he was tortured, Ibrahim said.
That same month, Ibrahim came to Washington to press for action on his father’s case. His main request was to classify Al-Madhi as an “unjustly detained” American citizen. This designation would raise the issue of the past in the eyes of the US government and move the file from the State Department’s consular bureaucracy to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which has a wide range of tools to wrongfully release Americans detained abroad.
Under US law, a US citizen cannot be “unlawfully detained” if he meets one of 11 specific criteria, at least six of which appear to apply in a previous case.
A US State Department official told the Washington Post that the Biden administration had raised the issue of the past at high levels with the Saudi government.
He said the State Department process to determine whether the former will receive an “unfairly detained” designation is still ongoing.