A former Twitter employee accused of spying on political dissidents for the Saudi Arabian government while working for the social media platform is set to stand trial this week in a San Francisco federal court.
The New York Times reports that former Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo was employed at the company from 2013 to 2015 and was responsible for helping celebrities, journalists and other notable figures in the Middle East promote their Twitter accounts. Abouammo also handled verification requests for notable figures and arranged tours of the San Francisco headquarters.
The Justice Department alleges that Abouammo misused his access to Twitter user data to gather information on political dissidents and sold it to the Saudi Arabian government in exchange for a luxury watch and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Abouammo, who has been charged with acting as an agent of a foreign power inside the United States, committing wire fraud, and laundering money, is set to stand trial in federal court in San Francisco this week.
Angela Chuang, a lawyer representing Abouammo, commented: “We look forward to vindicating Mr. Abouammo and for him to have his day in court.” It is expected that Abouammo’s legal team will argue that he worked lawfully as a consultant to Saudi Arabia.
The case appears to illustrate the Saudi government’s intensity in pursuing information about its critics and is coming to attention at a delicate time in diplomacy between the United States and Saudi Arabia. President Biden made his first visit as president to the kingdom last week, which he once vowed to make a “pariah” in an effort to secure closer Saudi-Israeli relations and relief from high gas prices.