The US State Department confirms the detention of an American citizen in Saudi Arabia



CNN

The son of an American citizen jailed in Saudi Arabia for criticizing the Saudi government said Tuesday night that his father is “nowhere near being a dissident.”

“My father is a senior American citizen who just wants to live freely and happily in the United States where he got his education,” Saad Ibrahim Almadi’s son, Ibrahim Almadi, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront.”

The US State Department confirmed earlier on Tuesday that 72-year-old Saad Ibrahim Almadi has been jailed in Saudi Arabia after being sentenced to 16 years in prison for tweets critical of the Saudi government.

Almadi’s imprisonment was first reported by The Washington Post.

Ibrahim Almadi told CNN on Tuesday that if his father had been detained in Russia or Iran, “we would see his name in the headlines every morning.”

State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said at a news briefing that officials have “consistently and intensively raised our concerns about the matter at senior levels of the Saudi government, both through channels in Riyadh and Washington, DC, as well as … as recently as in walks. ”

Patel also confirmed that no State Department official was at Almadi’s sentencing, which he said was because the Saudi government pushed the hearing date forward without telling the US Embassy and never responded to the embassy’s request to attend the hearing weeks before it was originally scheduled planned. . The last time the US had consular access to Almadi was on August 10, according to Patel.

The State Department, he said, is still in the process of determining whether Almadi will be designated as “wrongfully detained.”

“Exercising free speech should never be criminalized,” Patel said.

The State Department communicated Monday with the Saudi ambassador in Washington about Almadi’s case, a US official told CNN.

This headline and story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

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