Saudi Arabia has freed dual Saudi-U.S. citizen Saad Ibrahim Almadi more than a year after he was arrested for tweets critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The 72-year-old, who had been living as a retiree in Florida, was arrested while visiting family in Saudi Arabia back in 2021 and sentenced to 16 years in jail over tweets posted while in the U.S., where freedom of speech is a constitutional right, over the span of seven years, according to his son.
The Saudi government has argued that Almadi’s critical tweets about the kingdom’s leadership constituted terrorism, and was also accused of failing to report terrorism over tweets posted by his son, Ibrahim.
The jail sentence was later upped to 19 years, plus a travel ban that would apply for 16 years after release from prison. He’s now released with family in Riyadh, his son told the Associated Press, but it’s unclear whether the travel ban is to be lifted to allow him to return home to Florida.
Almadi’s release comes as the U.S. and Saudi Arabia work to improve relations. President Biden visited Saudi Arabia last year, a trip that produced the controversial visual of Biden fist-bumping Crown Prince Mohammed after a U.S. intelligence report indicated the crown prince was involved in the 2018 murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Almadi’s son last year accused the U.S. State Department of neglecting his father’s case, alleging that U.S. embassy officials didn’t attend the sentencing hearing or visit Almadi until six months post-arrest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.