Saudi Arabia abruptly releases US citizen jailed for critical tweets shortly after increased prison time

With relations strained between the United States and Saudi Arabia, the timing of an American prisoner’s release, only weeks after a sentence increase, left many wondering about the cost.

President Joe Biden campaigned on promises of foreign policy expertise, and yet since taking office, his blunders have overseen the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a growing threat from China, and the laughable prisoner swap of a notorious arms dealer in exchange for a WNBA player.

Now it seems capitulation to Saudis may be yet another act in this comedy of errors as the Associated Press confirmed the release of 72-year-old U.S. citizen Saad Almadi, serving a 19-year sentence for posting no fewer than 14 tweets critical of the royal family and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Those tweets had included calling out officials for lack of defense against rocket fire from the Houthis in Yemen, allied with Iran, and Almadi’s vocal support of honoring the memory of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, believed to have been murdered at the behest of bin Salman to silence criticism.

Ibrahim Almadi, the son of the imprisoned dual citizen who split his time between Florida and Saudi Arabia, reacted to the news by saying, “I welcome the release of Saad Almadi, my father and best friend. As I always say, we are the strongest country in the world. We can protect our interests and citizens.”

Since his father was initially sentenced to 16 years in prison after he was arrested in Nov. 2021 upon arrival to spend time with family in Riyadh, Ibrahim has been an advocate for the man and routinely called out Biden whom he alleged: “sold my father for oil.”

“Biden just cares about votes,” the younger Almadi said in October. “He doesn’t care about my father, he doesn’t care about American citizens. He got sold for oil, but they didn’t receive the oil. So there is no father, no oil. There’s nothing — there is only shame, that is what the White House has got now.”

As noted, the imprisoned Almadi’s sentence had recently had three years tacked on leading to speculation as to what concessions were made to satisfy the Saudis who had already publicly embarrassed Biden by refusing his requests to aid the U.S. with oil.

The New York Post took note that last week, Boeing had agreed to the sale of as many as 121 jets to a pair of Saudi airlines and that the Saudis had just agreed to partake in a Chinese-brokered deal to “restore diplomatic relations with Iran — working with two top US strategic adversaries.”

These developments coincided with the Senate confirmation of Michael Ratney as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia after a two-year vacancy, a point the younger Almadi lauded and wrote, “More success to come to our interest and relations in that region.”

For the time being, the newly-released prisoner, said to have lost about 80 pounds during his nearly 500 days incarcerated, remains in Saudi Arabia until a travel restriction is lifted. His son remarked, “Our fight is not over until Saad is back…He needs medical attention in the states.”

At least three other American citizens are faced with a similar ban and, according to the post “others are rumored to be imprisoned.”


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Kevin Haggerty


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