The U.S. State Department confirmed that a Saudi-American citizen has been detained in Saudi Arabia, and said that Washington has repeatedly raised its concerns.
Saudi Arabia in early October handed a 16-year prison sentence to Saudi-American Saad Ibrahim Almadi, the Washington Post reported late on Monday, over his tweets critical of the Saudi government.
Almadi was charged with “harboring a terrorist ideology, trying to destabilize the Kingdom, as well as supporting and funding terrorism,” the Post reported. He was also handed a 16-year travel ban.
A spokesperson for the State Department confirmed Almadi’s detention in Saudi Arabia but declined to identify the charge or say when exactly he was detained. The spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Washington has been following Almadi’s case closely since his arrest.
“Since that happened, we have consistently and intensively raised our concerns regarding this case at senior levels 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,” the spokesperson said.
“Peaceful expression should never be criminalized,” he added.
The news come at a time when the Biden administration is looking to reevaluate its relationship with Saudi Arabia, after OPEC+ oil producers announced oil production cuts over U.S. objections.
Washington had not previously disclosed Almadi’s detention, even though the Post reported that he was first detained last November when he was visiting Riyadh.
There are thought to be dozens of American citizens detained abroad by foreign governments and some are held by top U.S. adversaries such as Russia, Iran and China. It is uncommon for a U.S. ally to detain American citizens.
In recent months, the Biden administration has stepped up efforts to bring home detainees, striking prisoner swaps with Russia and Venezuela to secure the freedom of half a dozen U.S. citizens.
Washington has been conducting talks with Moscow to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is jailed in Russia over drug charges, and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.