Former Twitter employee guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia

Ex-Twitter employee guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia< /p> UPDATE DAY

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 and the royal family. 

A jury in a San Francisco court has decided that Ahmad Abouammo did sell personal information about anonymous users to Riad, in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars.

He risks between 10 and 20 years in prison for acting on behalf of a foreign government and for money laundering, fraud and falsification of documents. His sentence will be handed down at a later date.

“The evidence has shown that, for money and when he thought he was doing this out of sight, the defendant sold his position (as a Twitter employee, editor's note) to a relative” of the royal family Saudi Arabia, Federal Prosecutor Colin Sampson told the jury last week, after a two-week trial.

The verdict comes after human rights activists criticized Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron for their diplomatic policy towards Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, sidelined from the international scene after the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey in 2018.

Numerous NGOs regularly accuse the leader, nicknamed “MBS”, and his regime of spying on, kidnapping and torturing dissidents, which Riad denies.< /p>

Ahmad Abouammo was arrested in Seattle in November 2019. The prosecution accuses him, as well as another ex-Twitter employee, Ali Alzabarah, of having been approached by Riad at the end of 2014-beginning of 2015 in order to transmit data from users accessible only internally (e-mail address, telephone number, date of birth, etc.).

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

Angela Chuang, Ahmad Abouammo's lawyer, admitted that a Saudi operation could have is seven years old, having been set up with the aim of obtaining information on opponents from Twitter employees.

But according to her, her client was tried instead of Mr. Alzabarah. “It's obvious that the defendants the government was looking for are not there,” she said.

Twitter, asked by AFP, declined to comment on the verdict.< /p>

The platform accuses its former employee of not respecting company rules by not declaring to his superiors that he received $100,000 and a watch worth more than $40,000 from from someone close to the Saudi monarchy.

It was “pocket money” for Saudis accustomed to opulence, Ms. Chuang told jurors.