According to US prosecutors, a former Twitter Inc. manager was sentenced to three and a half years in jail on Wednesday after being found guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia by disclosing user data some years ago and possibly exposing users to persecution.
After a trial in a federal San Francisco court, a jury declared Ahmad Abouammo guilty in August.
The prosecution requested a sentence “severe enough to dissuade others in the technology and social media industries from selling out the data of vulnerable users.” They asked for a sentence of slightly over seven years in prison.
Abouammo could have received a life sentence if convicted.
Attorneys for Abouammo had requested a probationary sentence at his Seattle home from US District Judge Edward Chen.
They noted Abouammo’s ongoing health challenges, absence of additional convictions, and family troubles that had hampered him throughout his employment at Twitter, which lasted from 2013 to 2015.
The case centered on Abouammo’s efforts to research two Twitter users, a $42,000 watch a Saudi official gave him, and two wire payments totaling $100,000.
To assist Saudi officials in locating and identifying Twitter users of interest, according to the prosecution, Abouammo—who was in charge of Twitter’s relationships with journalists and celebrities in the Middle East and North Africa—said sensitive information from the company’s systems. It may have put these users at risk of persecution.
Abouammo’s federal public defenders did not immediately reply to demands for comment.
Requests for a response from Twitter, which Elon Musk recently acquired, and the Saudi Embassy in Washington also went unanswered immediately.
Abouammo’s attorneys asked for a light sentence because they claimed that while he worked at Twitter, his family had been “struggling to pay for and deal with severe changes in his sister’s life,” such as expensive medical treatment for her infant daughter.
The attorneys also said Abouammo’s actions bleached compared to Ali Alzabarah, another ex-Twitter employee, who was accused of accessing thousands of Twitter accounts on behalf of Saudi Arabia.