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Saudi Arabia sentences U.S. citizen to 16 years in prison over tweets, family says

The son of a 72-year-old Florida resident said his father was arrested in Saudi Arabia and sentenced to 16 years in prison over tweets he made about the kingdom while still in the United States.

The man, Saad Ibrahim Almadi, is a retired project manager who is a citizen of both the United States and Saudi Arabia. His son, Ibrahim, told The Associated Press his father was arrested last November while visiting family in Saudi Arabia. Almadi was detained over 14 "mild tweets" he sent over the past seven years, his son said, with most of the messages critical of Saudi government policies.

Almadi is not an activist, his son told AP, and was sharing his opinion in a country where citizens have freedom of speech. He was charged with supporting terrorism and failing to report terrorism, and in addition to receiving 16 years in prison, he has been banned from leaving Saudi Arabia for another 16 years after his release. Ibrahim told AP Saudi authorities instructed his family not to speak publicly about the case, and after they contacted the U.S. State Department in March, his father was tortured.

Ibrahim told AP he is speaking to the press now because the State Department has not declared his father a "wrongfully detained" American, which would elevate his file. Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. 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., and we will continue to do so. We have raised this with members of the Saudi government as recently as yesterday."