Saad Ibrahim Almadi was jailed for 19 years for posts on Twitter criticising the government after landing in Riyadh in November 2021.

A US citizen jailed in Saudi Arabia for posting criticism of the kingdom’s government on Twitter has been released from prison, but remains banned from travelling, according to his son.

Saad Ibrahim Almadi, 72, was jailed for 16 years by a criminal court in 2022 before an appeals court increased his sentence to 19 years last month.

His son, Ibrahim, has now said that his father was at his home in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with his family.

“All charges have been dropped but we have to fight the travel ban now,” Ibrahim said.

Neither Saudi nor US officials immediately confirmed Almadi’s release.

Almadi, a dual US-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 destabilise the kingdom.

His case, along with those of other US citizens who remain under a travel ban in Saudi Arabia, had added to an already strained relationship between the two traditional allies.

Thorny issues

United States President Joe Biden said he had raised the cases during meetings with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he visited Saudi Arabia in July.

In October, Biden promised there would be consequences for Riyadh after the OPEC+ oil alliance, led by Saudi Arabia and which includes Russia, decided to cut output targets.

However, both sides have been working to improve ties recently.

The kingdom, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has been pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into a drive to transform and open its economy and reduce its dependence on crude.

The reforms have been accompanied by a raft of arrests of critics of Crown Prince Mohammed, as well as of businessmen, religious leaders and rights activists.

Last week, Saudi state television showed prisoners who had been jailed for up to 15 years after publishing critical posts on Twitter.

Two Saudi women were sentenced to 45 and 35 years last year on charges that included “using the internet to tear the social fabric”.

Abdullah Alaoudh, Saudi director at the Freedom Initiative, said Almadi’s release showed that pressure from the US had been effective.

“There are far too many people in detention in Saudi Arabia who do not have the benefits of US citizenship to draw attention to their cases,” he said.

“Almadi’s release shows that strategic pressure works, and US officials should continue to press for release of prisoners and lifting of travel bans,” he added.

This month, Democratic and Republican US senators introduced a resolution that could lead to a reassessment of security assistance for the kingdom over its rights record.

aljazeera