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Saudi Arabia frees American imprisoned over critical tweets

Last Updated Mar 20, 2023 at 8:30 pm MDT

In this photo provided by Ibrahim Almadi, Saad Ibrahim Almadi sits in a restaurant in an unidentified place, in the United States, on August 2021. Saudi Arabia has freed the Saudi-American citizen it had imprisoned more than a year over his old tweets critical of the kingdom’s crown prince. (Ibrahim Almadi via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Saudi Arabia on Monday freed an American citizen, a 72-year-old Florida retiree, it had imprisoned for more than a year over his old tweets 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 Jacksonville, Florida, resident. But progress on his release had been rumored since last week.

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 it was not immediately clear whether the kingdom would lift a travel ban it had imposed to follow the prison sentence.

Saudi Arabia had sentenced Madi last year to 16 years in prison, saying his critical tweets about how Saudi Arabia was being governed amounted to terrorist acts against the kingdom.

As U.S. officials worked to win his release, and after President Joe Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia last summer in an attempt to improve relations with the oil-rich nation, a Saudi appeals court increased Madi’s prison sentence to 19 years.

The case had been one of many alleged human rights abuses souring relations between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Biden.

Ellen Knickmeyer, The Associated Press