The son of a U.S. citizen detained in Saudi Arabia for criticizing the Saudi government said late Tuesday that his father was “far from being a dissident.”
“My father is an elderly American who just wants to live freely and happily in an educated America,” said Ibrahim Almadi, son of Saad Ibrahim Almadi in “OutFront” ‘ told CNN’s Erin Burnett on the show.
Saad Ibrahim al-Madi, 72, has been jailed in Saudi Arabia after being sentenced to 16 years in prison for tweets critical of the Saudi government, the U.S. State Department confirmed earlier on Tuesday.
The Washington Post first reported Almadi’s imprisonment.
Ibrahim Almadi told CNN on Tuesday that if his father had been a hero in Russia or Iran, “we would see his name in the headlines every morning.”
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said at a news conference that officials “went through channels in Riyadh and Washington, D.C., and … yesterday.”
Patel also confirmed that there were no State Department officials at Almadi’s sentencing hearing, which he said was because the Saudi government had brought up the hearing date without notifying the U.S. embassy and never responded to the embassy’s original decision. The request to appear at the hearing a few weeks ago. According to Patel, the last US consular visit to Almadi was on August 10.
He said the State Department was still going through the process to determine whether Almadi would be designated as “wrongly detained.”
“Exercising free speech should never be criminalized,” Patel said.
A U.S. official told CNN that the State Department communicated with the Saudi ambassador in Washington on Monday about Almadi’s case.
This title and story has been updated with other developments on Tuesday.