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Ex-Twitter employee found guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia

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

He faces 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 showed that, for money and when he thought he was doing it out of sight, the defendant sold his job [d’employé de Twitter, NDLR] to a loved one from the Saudi royal family, 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 Consulate in Turkey in 2018.

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Many NGO regularly accuse the leader, nicknamed MBSand his regime of spying on, kidnapping and torturing dissidents, which Riyadh denies.

$100,000 and a watch

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 Riyadh at the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015 in order to transmit data from users accessible only internally (email 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 been set up seven years ago to obtain information about opponents from Twitter employees.

According to her, her client was tried instead of Mr. Alzabarah. It is obvious that the defendants that the government was looking for are not thereshe said.

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Twitter, requested by theAFPdeclined to comment on the verdict.

The platform accuses its former employee of not having respected the rules of the company by not declaring to his superiors having received $100,000 and a watch worth more than $40,000 from a close associate of the monarchy saudi.

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

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