San Francisco: Former Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison after being convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia, media reported on Thursday.
He was sentenced in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, reports NBC News.
Abouammo was found guilty by a US court in August this year for accessing private information in the accounts of certain Twitter users, and providing that information to officials in Saudi Arabia.
Abouammo and Ali Alzabarah — two Twitter employees — and Saudi national Ahmed Almutairi, aka Ahmed Aljbreen, were charged in 2019 for acting as illegal agents of the Saudi government in the US.
Abouammo was also charged with destroying, altering, or falsifying records in a federal investigation.
In the trial, the prosecution argued that a prominent member of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s government tapped Abouammo for help investigating his enemies.
“In 2018, Saudi government agents murdered and dismembered Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, Virginia resident and frequent critic of the regime,” The Verge reported.
According to the complaint by the US Department of Justice, between November 2014 and May 2015, Almutairi, 30, of Saudi Arabia, and foreign officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia convinced Abouammo and Alzabarah to use their employee credentials to gain access without authorisation to certain nonpublic information about the individuals behind certain Twitter accounts.
“Specifically, representatives of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Royal Family sought the private information of Twitter users who had been critical of the regime,” read the complaint.
Such private user information included their email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses, and dates of birth.
This information could have been used to identify and locate the Twitter users who published these posts.
The complaint alleged that Abouammo was compensated for his illicit conduct, including through the provision of a luxury watch and cash.
Abouammo was arrested in Seattle, Washington in November 2019, while Alzabarah and Almutairi are believed to be in Saudi Arabia. Federal warrants have been issued for their arrest.