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Twitter account for MBS aide tied to Saudi spying plot is still online with 2M followers

A top Saudi government official maintains an active, verified Twitter account with more than 2 million followers even after he allegedly recruited one of the social media company’s employees to participate in a spying scheme.

The verified account for Bader al-Asaker, a close aide to Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was still online Thursday – two days after a US jury convicted ex-Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo of spying for the Saudi government.

Abouammo, a dual US-Lebanese citizen who worked as a media partnerships manager for Twitter, was found guilty on allegations that he provided the Saudis in 2015 with confidential information on suspected dissidents under scrutiny for bashing the government through anonymous accounts.

While he was not charged in the scheme, Asaker was alleged to have played a key role. Prosecutors said Asaker recruited the ex-Twitter worker and bribed him with an expensive watch and $300,000 in wire transfers in exchange for the sensitive information.

According to the indictment, Asaker first made contact with Abouammo in 2014, when the latter helped to arrange a tour of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco for the MBS aide and other Saudi government officials.

Bader Al Asaker’s account has more than 2 million followers.

The Guardian was first to report on the account.

Asaker regularly tweets about Saudi government events and activities on the account. Recent posts include photos from the crown prince’s meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and tributes to the Saudi military.

Abouammo was convicted on six criminal counts, including acting as an agent of Saudi Arabia and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison. Abouammo’s defense team argued that he was just fulfilling the functions of his job.

Two others named as defendants in the lawsuit, Saudi citizens Ali Alzabarah and Ahmed Almutairi, remain at large.

Bader Al-Asaker
Bader Al-Asaker is a top aide to the Saudi crown prince.

Alzabarah, another former Twitter employee, was also charged with providing confidential information from Twitter to Asaker regarding individuals who were publicly critical of the Saudi regime.

During the trial, US prosecutors alleged that Asaker approached Abouammo specifically to develop him as “an operative, a mole” for the Saudi government, according to Bloomberg. The feds described Asaker as the crown prince’s “right hand man.”

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has faced scrutiny over the country’s human rights record.
Balkis Press/ABACA/Shutterstock

The Saudi government has faced widespread scrutiny and criticism over its human rights record, most notably over its role in the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The Post has reached out to Twitter for comment.

In December 2019, Twitter suspended accounts that were linked “to a significant state-backed information operation” out of Saudi Arabia in connection to the spying incident.

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