A former Twitter Inc executive accused of spying for Saudi Arabia was found guilty on Tuesday of six counts, including acting as an agent of the country and attempting to conceal a payment of an official linked to the Saudi royal family. Ahmad Abouammo, a US-Lebanese dual citizen who on Twitter helped oversee relations with journalists and celebrities in the Middle East and North Africa, was found guilty after a 2.5-week trial before the federal court in San Francisco.
The jurors acquitted him on five of the 11 counts he faced. Federal public defenders representing Abouammo did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Twitter declined to comment.
Prosecutors said Bader Al-Asaker, a close adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, recruited Abouammo to use his insider knowledge to gain access to Twitter accounts and dig up personal information about Saudi dissidents. Those accounts reportedly included @mujtahidd, the handle of a political agitator who gained millions of Twitter followers during the Arab Spring uprisings by accusing the Saudi royal family of corruption and other wrongdoing.
Prosecutors said Abouammo received at least $300,000 and a $20,000 luxury watch from Al-Asaker, and concealed the money by depositing it in a relative’s account in Lebanon and transferring to his own account in the United States. Defense attorneys argued that the work Abouammo did on Twitter was simply part of his job.
Abouammo was also found guilty of wire fraud and honest services fraud, money laundering and one charge of conspiracy. “The government has demonstrated, and the jury has found, that Abouammo violated a sacred obligation to keep Twitter customers’ personal information private and sold private customer information to a foreign government,” the lawyer said. American Stephanie Hinds in San Francisco in a statement.
Ali Alzabarah, a former colleague of Abouammo also accused of accessing Twitter accounts on behalf of Saudi Arabia, left the United States before being charged. Al-Asaker, the Saudi Crown Prince and Twitter are not among the accused.
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