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Global Economy

Ex-Twitter executive convicted

A former Twitter employee has been found guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia, among other things. A jury in San Francisco found it proven that Ahmad Abouammo had accessed the personal data of short message service users who were critical of the kingdom's leadership. The penalty will be determined at a later date.

Abouammo, formerly responsible for media partnerships in the Middle East at Twitter, was arrested in November 2019 for acting as an agent for Saudi Arabia without formally registering with the US government. Criminal proceedings were instituted against him. He was later released on bail.

He and another Twitter employee at the time were accused of having been contacted by Saudi Arabian officials in 2014 to only pass on internally accessible user data such as email addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth behind anonymous user accounts. The data could have enabled Riyadh to identify hitherto anonymous government critics in the short message service.

$100,000 and luxury watch

Abouammo, who left Twitter in 2015 to join e-commerce giant Amazon, received $100,000 in cash and a $40,000 watch.

The jury found the now-fugitive US citizen guilty of six counts, including conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering. Prosecutor Colin Sampson said in his closing argument that the accused had "sold his position to an insider" close to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Abouammo's lawyer Angela Chuang, on the other hand, said her client only accepted gifts from generous Saudis after he left his job as an account manager at Twitter. He accepted the money and the watch; In the Saudi Arabian culture, that's just "change".

More than 6000 Twitter accounts affected

According to the FBI, data from more than 6,000 Twitter accounts were affected. Law enforcement authorities in Saudi Arabia have requested an urgent release of information from Twitter for at least 33 usernames. Another Saudi national is said to have worked as an intermediary with the Saudi royal family.

criticism of the human rights situation

The international handling of the arch-conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is controversial because of the human rights situation there. According to US intelligence, bin Salman personally approved the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.

In July, both US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron met the heir to the throne. The talks included Saudi Arabia as a possible oil supplier to mitigate the energy crisis resulting from the Russian attack on Ukraine.

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