Friday, 13 December 2019

US accuses two former Twitter employees of spying for Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO: Two former employees of Twitter and a third man from Saudi Arabia face US charges of spying for the kingdom by digging up private user data and giving it to Saudi officials in exchange for payment, a complaint from the Department of Justice shows. Ali Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, who used to work for Twitter, and Ahmed Almutairi, who then worked for the Saudi royal family, face charges of working for Saudi Arabia without registering as foreign agents, according to the complaint filed against them on Wednesday. The indictment points an unusually public finger at Saudi Arabia, a US ally that maintains warm ties with President Donald Trump despite its bad human rights record.

Saudi Arabia has not yet publicly remarked on the complaint. King Salman met with the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, Gina Haspel, in the capital Riyadh, the state news agency said on Thursday. It gave no details on the topics discussed at the meeting, which was also attended by the Saudi foreign and interior ministers and the US ambassador. Many Republican and Democratic lawmakers are already deeply critical of Riyadh’s conduct of the war in Yemen and the 2018 murder at a Saudi consulate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had US residency and wrote for the Washington Post.

Despite the pressure, Trump has stood by the kingdom and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who appears in the complaint as Royal Family Member-1, according to the Washington Post, which initially reported the charges.

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