The sister of an imprisoned Saudi dissident has filed a lawsuit against Twitter, claiming that the company did little to prevent employees having access to user data which they could use to disclose his identity to Saudi agents who later arrested him.
The case was filed in the Northern District of California by Areej Al-Sadhan, an American citizen, on behalf of herself and her brother, Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan, who is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence in Saudi Arabia for prejudicing public order and supporting “terrorism” after what the lawsuit calls a sham trial.
The lawsuit claims that Twitter, prior to or during 2018, long before Twitter was purchased by Elon Musk in 2022, repeatedly failed to crack down on spies sending personal information on thousands of anonymous users to the Saudi regime.
We obtained a copy of the complaint for you here.
From the lawsuit:
“In 2018, Plaintiff Abdulrahman, a target of the Saudi Criminal Enterprise, disappeared. Plaintiff Areej and her family were devastated, helpless, and fearful for her brother’s safety. For two years, Plaintiff Areej did not know where he was or if he was alive. Plaintiff Areej did what she could—she spoke out loudly against Defendant KSA. After Plaintiff Areej’s activism brought international pressure on Defendant KSA and highlighted how Plaintiff Abdulrahman was arbitrarily detained without charges against him, Defendant KSA brought baseless allegations against him—primarily related to his U.S.-based, protected speech on Twitter—in a sham trial before sentencing him to 20 years in prison, with the principal purpose of silencing Plaintiff Areej and others who challenged Defendant KSA.”
The lawsuit’s other defendants are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and several officials of the kingdom.
“Each member of the Saudi Criminal Enterprise participated in a conspiracy to chill anti-authoritarian advocacy by, among other conduct, unlawfully obtaining personal identifying information of political dissidents to identify and target them and kidnapping, torturing, stalking, harassing, threatening, and killing other political dissidents,” the lawsuit states. “Twitter became a participant tool of transnational repression to silence voices of dissent beyond Saudi Arabia’s borders in the United States and abroad, all in an effort to monetize its commercial relationship with Defendant KSA.”
Last year, Ahmad Abouammo, a Twitter employee who was taking bribes from Saudi intelligence officials in exchange for information on critics of the Kingdom’s rulers, was arrested and charged.
Last year, during a Congressional hearing, Twitter whistleblower Peiter Zatko, who was a head of security, said that other countries also had spies on Twitter and that the company’s management was failing to monitor what employees were up to.