Ex-Twitter employee found guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia

Ex-Twitter employee found guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia
Credit: Belga

A former Twitter employee was found guilty on Tuesday of spying on users of the social network on behalf of Saudi Arabia, which sought to know the identity of people critical of the regime in Riyadh and the royal family.

A jury in a San Francisco court decided that Ahmad Abouammo did, in fact, sell personal information about anonymous users to Riyadh, in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars. He faces between 10 and 20 years in prison for acting on behalf of a foreign government, money laundering, fraud and falsification of documents. His sentence will be handed down at a later date.

“The evidence shows that, for a price and thinking no one was watching, the defendant sold his position [as a Twitter employee] to an insider of the crown prince” of Saudi Arabia, Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Sampson told the jury last week, at the end of a two-week trial.

This verdict comes after human rights defenders criticised U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron for their diplomatic policy towards Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, sidelined from the international scene after the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Ahmad Abouammo was arrested in Seattle in November 2019. The prosecution charged that Abouammo and another ex-Twitter employee, Ali Alzabarah, were approached by Riyadh in late 2014- early 2015 to transmit user data accessible only internally (email address, telephone number, date of birth, etc.).

Abouammo left Twitter in 2015. Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi, left the United States.

Twitter declined a request by French news agency AFP to comment on the verdict.

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