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Twitter accused of ‘criminal enterprise’ in crackdown against Saudi dissidents

The flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Flickr / Creative Commons
The flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

According to the complaint, Twitter, the Kingdom and a number of co-conspirators – including two former Twitter employees – "unlawfully surveilled, killed, tortured, disappeared, kidnapped, extorted, and threatened perceived dissidents to suppress speech globally and to export terror and repression into the world's democracies, including within the United States."

The lawsuit also alleges the defendants were part of a racketeering enterprisethat operated to target and retaliate against supposed Saudi dissidents, including the plaintiffs, for speaking out against the Kingdom and its royal family.

The plaintiffs are brother and sister and because plaintiff Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan is currently imprisoned and held incommunicado. Both of their stories are told by his sister, Areej Al-Sadhan, in a 51-page complaint.

The roots of the lawsuit go back to the Arab Spring of 2010 when protests erupted in the Middle East against a number of Arab governments.

In the words of the complaint, "young people largely built this grassroots movement on Defendant Twitter's platform, often using aliases to protect themselves and family as they organized and voiced their anger."

Sunni M. Khalid is a veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, having worked in print, radio, television, and web journalism.