The US State Department confirmed that 72-year-old American citizen Saad Ibrahim Almadi has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia after being given a 16-year sentence for tweets critical of the Saudi government.
“We have consistently and intensively raised our concerns regarding the case at senior levels of the Saudi government, both through channels in Riyadh and Washington, DC, as well … as recently as yesterday,” said State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel at a news briefing.
Almadi’s imprisonment was first reported by the Washington Post.
Patel also confirmed that there was no State Department official at Almadi’s sentencing hearing, which he said was because the Saudi government moved up the hearing date without telling the US embassy and never responded to the embassy’s request to attend the hearing weeks before it was originally scheduled.
Patel said that the State Department is still going through the process to determine whether Almadi will be designated as “wrongfully detained.”
“Exercising the freedom of expression should never be criminalized,” said Patel.
Patel also said that the last time the US had consular access to Almadi was August 10.
The State Department communicated with the Saudi Ambassador in Washington on Monday about Almadi’s case, a US official told CNN.