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US citizen imprisoned in Saudi Arabia over tweets

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(NEW YORK) — U.S. citizen and Florida resident Saad Ibrahim Almadi was arrested for a series of tweets he published that were critical of Saudi Arabia while visiting family in the Kingdom last November.

His son, Ibrahim Almadi, spoke with ABC News’ Linsey Davis Monday about his fight for his father’s release and what he knows about the case. Almadi said his father has been tortured and sentenced to 16 years in prison, and that the U.S. is not doing enough to help his father.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement to ABC News, “we’ve consistently and intensively raised our concerns regarding his case at senior levels of the Saudi government several times in both Washington and Riyadh and will continue to do so. The Saudi government understands the priority we attach to resolving this matter.”

PRIME: Thank you so much for joining us. Talk to me about that day that you last saw your dad. How did you hear about what happened?

ALMADI: Last time I saw my dad, I thought everything was okay. I didn’t know about his situation until December 20. That’s when I reached out to the State Department and our embassy in Riyadh.

PRIME: And what did you hear?

ALMADI: They told me, “we’ll try to locate your father. We have no idea where he is right now.”

PRIME: And did you ever learn then about some charges? How did that information come to you?

ALMADI: Nothing until March 29th, when they saw my father at Al-Ha’ir prison. It’s a political prison where they throw all the Saudis there for practicing freedom of speech, which they don’t have in their constitution there but as American citizens, we have it here.

PRIME: And so what are they accusing him of?

ALMADI: Terrorism, trying to destabilize the kingdom and they torture him until convicted himself that he made these tweets to do that.

PRIME: And you say that he’s been tortured. What evidence do you have of that?

ALMADI: That’s his own words, his own reply to the judge. The judge wanted to sentence him for 42 years. But after reading my father’s reply to the way the investigation went, they discounted him to 16 years from 42.

PRIME: You’ve not been able to talk to your father.

ALMADI: Until now. And the Department of State has no news about my father since August 10th.

PRIME: So you don’t really know his status at all? Is there any way to get any kind of update or what is the United States— ?

ALMADI: I mean, the White House needs to recognize my father. He’s a senior American citizen. I don’t want my father to die in prison like Dr. Abdullah Mohammed.

PRIME: Of course, you’re aware of the publicity and the push to get the United States to free Paul Wheelan and Brittney Griner from Russia. Do you feel that there are any similar efforts underway to get your dad out?

ALMADI: That’s that’s what I’m that’s what I’m hoping for, but nothing yet.

PRIME: You’ve said that the State Department has mishandled your father’s case. And I do want to give you a quote that they have told ABC, they say “we’ve consistently and intensively raised our concerns regarding his case at senior levels of the Saudi government several times in both Washington and Riyadh and will continue to do so. The Saudi government understands the priority we attach to resolving this matter” and that they have no further updates. How do you respond to that?

ALMADI: I mean, if His Highness Crown Prince, is quite sensitive from Twitter, I suggest he buy the rest of the stake, he can shut down Twitter. He can’t send a senior American citizen to prison for practicing his First Amendment.

PRIME: And so what does the U.S. State Department tell you? Do you get any updates from them at all?

ALMADI: Nothing. Last time I talked to them was two weeks ago, and that is nothing.

PRIME: And what did they say?

ALMADI: We’re still working on it. We submitted a ticket to see your father, but the Saudis didn’t respond to the ticket.

PRIME: If you could talk to your dad, what would you say to him?

ALMADI: I love you so much. I will do everything to bring you back home.

PRIME: Is there anything else that you can do? Do you feel, are your hands tied because you’re just waiting for the State Department to act?

ALMADI: Absolutely. They need to act and they must act. My father is facing the most aggressive sentence for an American citizen overseas. The Saudi court under MBS they broke a new record. They need to act.

PRIME: Did your dad express any concern when he was going over there to Saudi Arabia, that because he had been critical of the government that something might happen?

ALMADI: That’s a lovely question. My father had his American passport printed, a photo of it, in his bedroom. And he told me ‘son, if I’m gone, immediately reach out to our embassy.’

PRIME: And you did that?

ALMADI: Absolutely.

PRIME: And you feel that the response has not been adequate?

ALMADI: Not yet.

PRIME: Well, we thank you so much for sharing your story, your father’s story with us, and hope that it will do some good for you.

ALMADI: Thank you, Linsey.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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