An elderly US citizen was recently handed a 16-year and three-month prison sentence by Saudi Arabia for tweeting, and now his son is outraged at how President Biden and his deputies bungled the case. This is what Ibrahim Almadi said: “He sold my father for oil, that’s clear to us. Especially when we saw the news last week about how they requested to delay the OPEC [oil production cuts] decision a month [until after the election].”
In July, the president visited the oil-rich kingdom without winning the release of 72-year-old Saad Almadi, and he did not even mention the case publicly. After the State Department failed to send a representative to observe proceedings, the elder Almadi was convicted and sentenced on October 3.
“Biden just cares about votes. He doesn’t care about my father, he doesn’t care about American citizens,” said Ibrahim. “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,” he added.
Ibrahim Almadi was encouraged by the US government to avoid seeking publicity, as he said, only to have officials do little to help. Since the 1970s, his father was living in the U.S. and was detained in November 2021 during a visit to Saudi Arabia to sell a property. Linked to 14 tweets, Saad Almadi’s lengthy prison sentence follows similarly harsh penalties given to Saudi residents who lack US citizenship – often for criticizing the country’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, according to NY Post.
Sarah McLaughlin of the pro-free speech group the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression tweeted this: “This is outrageous. A 72-year-old U.S. citizen was sentenced to 16 years in prison and subject to torture in *Saudi Arabia* for years-old tweets he posted while in the United States.”
The department failed to alert the US Embassy in Riyadh when the hearing date was changed to October 3, a State Department official confirmed, saying that “unfortunately, that information wasn’t passed [to the embassy]. That is something we deeply regret.”
In a series of stinging snubs experienced by US-based relatives of Almadi and at least three other US citizens, who are not imprisoned currently but are banned from leaving Saudi Arabia, this mixup was the latest one. To smooth over relations with bin Salman, Biden visited the kingdom in the summer, after US gasoline prices hit all-time average highs of more than $5 per gallon in June.
Previously, the U.S. president tried to sideline bin Salman over the US intelligence community’s conclusion that he ordered the 2018 operation that killed Jamal Khashoggi, another Washington Post columnist. Despite the president exchanging fist bumps with bin Salman, who is widely known by his initials, MBS, Saudi Arabia led the OPEC+ cartel in moving to cut oil production weeks later, which embarrassed Biden.
“MBS is just challenging,” Ibrahim Almadi said. “He wants to see how far he can get with Biden. Let’s be honest: If I do something to you and you don’t put boundaries or react, guess what I’m going to do? I’m going to move forward with my abusive actions toward you,” he added.
The younger Almadi said he called the White House switchboard almost every day before Biden’s trip, from late May to try to speak with Stephanie Hallett, the National Security Council’s acting senior director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Why do you want to talk to someone who doesn’t want to talk to you?” A White House phone operator allegedly asked at one point.
After Biden’s visit, a State Department official allegedly laughed in August at Almadi’s complaint that his father, a registered Republican in Florida, would be unable to vote in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
“I am Democratic myself. I voted for Biden, which is a stupid mistake I did. My father’s a Republican registered voter. He wants to participate in the coming election. They laughed and said that your father should request a paper ballot,” said Ibrahim.
Almadi also added that if the president doesn’t consider it his job to help free US citizens held abroad like his father, he should “get the f**k out of the White House.”