An ex-Twitter employee is found guilty by a San Francisco jury of fraud and serving as a foreign government agent.
A former Twitter manager was found guilty on Tuesday by a federal jury in San Francisco of spying for Saudi Arabia and selling the government of the country's citizens' personal information.
Dual national of the United States and Lebanon, Ahmad Abouammo, worked to manage connections with media figures and celebrities in the Middle East and North Africa. A copy of the verdict shows that although facing 11 accusations, including money laundering, fraud, and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, he was found guilty of six of them.
Abouammo, 44, allegedly accepted more than $300,000 from the Saudis in addition to a watch worth more than $20,000 in exchange for disclosing details about government critics, including their email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, and other information that could be used to identify people hiding behind anonymous accounts.
In closing remarks to the California jury, US prosecutor Colin Sampson said, "The evidence shows that, for a price and thinking no one was watching, the defendant sold his position to an insider of the crown prince." Sampson was referring to Bader Al-Asaker, a trusted advisor to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is thought to have been Abouammo's employer.
Abouammo's defense has argued that all he did was take gifts from "free-spending Saudis" in exchange for performing his client management duties, stating that the presents were "pocket change" in the generous and luxurious culture of Saudi Arabia.
Even though there appeared to be a conspiracy to use Twitter to gather incriminating material on Saudi dissidents, Abouammon's defense lawyer said that the prosecution failed to establish Abouammon's involvement in the plot beyond a reasonable doubt.
Even nevertheless, Abouammo's legal team acknowledged that their client had broken Twitter's policies by failing to notify the company that he had received money and a watch from a person connected to the Saudi crown prince.
Abouammo was initially charged in October 2018 along with Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi national who had also worked at Twitter's San Francisco headquarters and was accused of accessing more than 6,000 accounts' data on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
While federal officials detained Abouammo in November 2019, Alzabarah was able to leave the country with his family before being charged.
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