'I Feel Betrayed': Son of US Citizen Imprisoned in Saudi Arabia Says Biden Admin Is Neglecting His Father

U.S. president Joe Biden fist-bumps Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman / Reuters
October 18, 2022

The son of a 72-year-old American citizen whom Saudi Arabia sentenced to 16 years in prison spoke out against the Biden administration for handling his father's case with neglect and incompetence.

Saad Ibrahim Almadi, who is Saudi-American, was sentenced in Saudi Arabia on Oct. 3 for 14 tweets, which he posted while in the United States over the last seven years, that criticized Saudi government policies. Saudi authorities detained him last November while he was visiting his family in the country. Almadi's son Ibrahim has been pressing the State Department to take action, with little response.

"I feel empty inside. I feel dead inside. I feel betrayed," Ibraham Almadi told the Washington Post. "He's not only my father, he's my best friend. He is everything to me."

President Joe Biden visited the oil-rich country this summer as U.S. gas prices peaked, sparking criticism for his handling of U.S.-Saudi relations. Throwing out his campaign promise to make Saudi Arabia "pay the price" for its human rights abuses, Biden greeted Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman with a controversial fist bump and failed to confront the Saudi leader for imprisoning Almadi and other Americans. The president faced further embarrassment when the Saudi-led oil supplier OPEC this month decided to cut oil production despite the Biden administration's pleas.

Biden "sold my father for oil, that's clear to us," Ibrahim Almadi told the New York Post. "He got sold for oil, but they didn't receive the oil. So there is no father, no oil. There's nothing—there is only shame, that is what the White House has got now."

Almadi told Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin that the U.S. embassy has betrayed his father—only visiting him in prison once, six months after his arrest, and failing to attend his hearing.

"I told the State Department his hearing was set for October 3 and they should attend. Afterward, over the phone, they said, 'Oh, I'm sorry we forgot to tell the embassy,'" Almadi told the Washington Post. "I feel like they are just careless."

The Washington Post confirmed with a senior State Department official that the consular affairs office in Washington, D.C., indeed failed to tell the embassy of Saad Ibrahim Almadi's updated hearing date, even though Ibraham Almadi had notified them.

Mohammed bin Salman is "acting as if he believes or knows that the Biden administration won't bring pressure on them regarding American prisoners, let alone oil and other issues," Ali al-Ahmed, founder and director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, told the Post. "The Biden White House's inaction on American hostages in Saudi prisons led to the harshest sentence against an American abroad."