Saudi Arabia released a dual Saudi-U.S. citizen on Tuesday. He was held in prison for more than a year for tweeting things critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman while living in the United States.
Saad Ibrahim Almadi, 72, was arrested while visiting family in Saudi Arabia in 2021 for tweets that he posted over the span of seven years. He made the tweets while living in Florida.
He was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the tweets, which the government claimed constituted terrorism, his son Ibrahim Asaid told the Associated Press.
Almadi was also given a 16-year travel ban that would go into effect after he was released from prison. It is unclear whether the ban will be lifted to allow him to return to Florida. He is currently in Saudi Arabia with his son, but all charges have been dropped.
“He considers the United States home, not Saudi,” Ibrahim Asaid told NBC News of his father. “[But] he needs immediate medical treatment and attention in the United States. For that [reason], the travel ban is quite concerning to us.”
The release comes as the U.S. works to strengthen ties with the Middle Eastern country. Diplomatic ties have been strained since the death of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in 2018. Khashoggi was a known critic of the Saudi government, and a U.S. intelligence report suggested Khashoggi was killed in retaliation for his criticism. However, President Joe Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia last summer to strengthen the relationship.
Almadi’s tweets included one noting the crown prince’s consolidation of power in the kingdom and another that remarked on Khashoggi’s killing.
U.S.-based human rights organization the Freedom Initiative celebrated Almadi’s release in a statement on Tuesday. The organization advocates the freedom of prisoners wrongfully detained across the Middle East and North Africa.
“We are relieved that Saad Almadi has been released, but he should have never spent a day behind bars for innocuous tweets,” Abdullah Alaoudh, the Saudi director at the organization, said in the statement. “Almadi was wrongfully detained, reportedly tortured, and released only after tireless campaigning by his son and international pressure. Almadi’s release shows that strategic pressure works, and U.S. officials should continue to press for release of prisoners and lifting of travel bans.”
Although Almadi’s release is a success, there are still at least six U.S. citizens detained or trapped under politically motivated travel bans in Saudi Arabia, the organization said.