Saudi Arabia has freed an American citizen, a 72-year-old Florida retiree, it had imprisoned for more than a year over his old tweets that were critical of the kingdom’s crown prince, his son said.
Neither Saudi nor U.S. officials immediately confirmed the release of Saad al Madi, a longtime Florida, resident, but progress on his release had been rumored since last week.
Al Madi on Monday night was at home with family members who live in Riyadh, said his son, Ibrahim al Madi, in the United States.
Saudi officials dropped all charges against the elder Madi, a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen but the kingdom is not believed to have lifted a travel ban it had imposed to follow the prison sentence.
‘All charges have been dropped but we have to fight the travel ban now,” Ibrahim said on Monday night.
Saudi Arabia has freed Saudi-American citizen Saad Ibrahim Almadi after he was imprisoned for more than a year over his old tweets critical of the kingdom’s crown prince
Son, Ibrahim Almadi, left, poses for a picture with his father, Saad, at a vacation resort in Florida in June 2021
Almadi, a dual U.S.-Saudi national had been living in retirement in Florida. He was arrested after landing in Riyadh in November 2021 on several charges, including funding terrorism and working to destabilize the kingdom
Saad Almadi, a 72-year-old retired project manager who was living in Florida, saw his prison sentence increase from 16 to 19 years
Almadi, a dual U.S.-Saudi national who had been living in retirement in Florida, was arrested after landing in Riyadh in November 2021 on several charges, including funding terrorism and working to destabilize the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia had sentenced Madi last year to 16 years in prison, saying his critical tweets about how the kingdom was being governed amounted to terrorist acts against it.
The social media posts, which Ibrahim has previously described as ‘mild’, included condemnations over the Saudi government’s inability to protect its borders from rockets fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen, a group allied with Iran.
Other posts included criticism over poverty in Saudi Arabia and references to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi’s death in 2018 sparked a wave of controversy amid allegations it was orchestrated by the Saudi government, after it was revealed that the Washington Post reporter was ambushed by a hit-squad of Saudi assassins with close ties to the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The journalist was allegedly murdered to remove a prominent critic of the Saudi government, leading Almadi to subsequently express support for naming a street after him.
Following the tweets, Almadi, a 72-year-old retired project manager who was living in Florida at the time, was arrested in November 2021 while visiting family in Saudi Arabia.
Following Almadi’s sentencing, a US State Department spokesman told a press briefing that the US government attempted to push the Saudi government to release him.
Saad Ibrahim Almadi, 72, was given a 16-year prison sentence in Saudi Arabia which was later increased to 19 years for tweets critical of the country. He’s pictured with son, Ibrahim Almadi
Ibrahim Almadi (L) said his father Saad Ibrahim Almadi, 72, (R) was arrested after travelling to Riyadh to see his family in November 2021
The case had been one of many alleged human rights abuses souring relations between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Biden, pictured together last July
Saad Almadi’s son previously criticized the White House for seemingly taking ‘a soft stance’ on his father’s detention in Saudi Arabia. Biden is pictured fist bumping MBS last summer
They said that the US has ‘consistently and intensively raised our concerns regarding the case at senior levels of the Saudi government, both through channels in Riyadh and Washington, D.C.’
As U.S. officials worked to win his release, and after President Joe Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia last July in an attempt to improve relations with the oil-rich nation, a Saudi appeals court increased Madi’s prison sentence to 19 years.
Biden, who had initially taken a tough stance over Riyadh’s human rights record, visited to press for more oil supplies and seek help to isolate Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
The case had been one of many alleged human rights abuses souring relations between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Biden.
Since being in prison in Saudi Arabia, Madi has been tortured and forced to live with actual terrorists, his son told the Washington Post last year.
Freedom Initiative, a U.S.-based group that advocates for detainees it says are unjustly detained in the Middle East, says least four U.S. citizens and one legal permanent resident already were detained in Saudi Arabia under travel bans, and that at least one other older U.S. citizen remains imprisoned.
Many of the travel bans targeted dual citizens advocating for greater rights in the kingdom.