U.S. federal prosecutors arrested Saudi man Ibrahim Alhussayen on charges of lying to federal officials about using a fake phone account to harass and threaten critics of the kingdom living in the United States and Canada, Newsweek reported on Tuesday.
The arrest in New York comes as President Joe Biden met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) at a diplomatic summit last week in Jeddah even as MBS allegedly continues to clamp down on opposition while working to promote an image as a liberal reformer.
The arrest of Alhussayen emphasizes that federal officials are increasingly active in attempting to prevent rights abuses in the U.S., according to Newsweek. Three years ago, U.S. prosecutors alleged that Saudi Arabia recruited two Twitter employees to spy on thousands of accounts, including ones held by American citizens and Saudi dissidents.
"This guy is just the tip of the iceberg," said Abdullah Alaoudh, Gulf research director for Democracy for the Arab World Now, a Washington-based human rights watchdog. "It's a much larger campaign by the Saudi government to reach people outside."
Alhussayen was a graduate student at two universities in Mississippi, but the FBI contends that online he was "@samar16490," an account that ruthlessly insulted and threatened young women on Instagram with the apparent goal of aiding the Saudi government.
Alhussayen allegedly maintained regular contact between January 2019 and August 2020 with a Saudi government employee who reported to an official at the royal court, Newsweek reported.
The FBI said Alhussayen told investigators during three interviews between June 2021 and January 2022 that he didn't use any social media accounts other than those in his own name, and he was charged with lying to federal authorities.
Alhussayen's warnings were part of a powerful campaign, according to his female victims, including a message to one that "MBS will wipe you off the face of the earth, you will see."
Alhussayen, using expletives, also allegedly threatened his victims with the fate of well-known Saudi women imprisoned in the kingdom.
Brian Freeman ✉
Brian Freeman, a Newsmax writer based in Israel, has more than three decades writing and editing about culture and politics for newspapers, online and television.
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