Saudi Prosecutors Are Targeting A US Citizen For Tweets Criticizing The Government

from the broad-power,-thin-skin dept

The Saudi government is decidedly unconcerned that other nations may have concerns about its censorship efforts. I mean, if need be, it will murder and dismember critics who prove unwilling to be silenced by less drastic efforts.

Having some of the keys to the oil kingdom helps, providing leverage against foreign governments that may want to issue sanctions or publicly criticize the wealthy and powerful nation. Its power over its own citizens is undeniable. Quasi-legislative responses to issues like misinformation and cybersecurity have given the Saudi government even more weaponry to deploy against citizens who refuse to bend a knee.

And the government will go extraterritorial if needed. Thanks to careless purveyors of powerful malware (yeah, that’s you, NSO Group), the Saudi government is able to target foreign citizens with exploits that fully compromise their communication devices.

This case, brought to our attention by Sarah McLaughlin, contains a couple of wrinkles that may make it more difficult to convince the Saudi government to end its investigation of a US citizen over critical tweets.

Here’s what’s happening now, as detailed by Human Rights Watch’s call for an end of this US citizen-targeting oppression effort:

Saudi prosecutors should drop an investigation possibly leading to formal criminal charges against a US citizen living in Saudi Arabia for “disrupting the public order,” Human Rights Watch said today. Carly Morris, 34, believes the allegation relates to her statements on social media voicing concerns about how Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory male guardianship system has affected her and her 8-year-old daughter.

A legal summons reviewed by Human Rights Watch orders Morris to appear at the public prosecution court in Buraydah in al-Qassim province on September 18, 2022. Article 103 of the criminal procedure law, cited in the summons, authorizes prosecutors to arrest and detain a person who is under investigation.

The person targeted by the investigation says she believes it was prompted by tweets she made earlier this year that criticized the Saudi’s government’s shifting of all power in relationships to the male partner — something that prevents the US citizen from leaving the country with her daughter, seeking medical care for her child, or deciding where her child attends school.

Morris’ situation went from uncertain to untenable shortly after she arrived in the country, as reported in August by Middle East Eye. Carly Morris married a Saudi resident in 2012 after meeting him on a Muslim dating site. They divorced in 2018. In 2019, her ex-husband convinced her and her daughter to visit him. She’s been trapped in the country ever since.

Morris was able to visit the kingdom on a tourist visa, which was to expire after 30 days. They had only planned on staying that long. Since Tala’s father was a Saudi citizen, she was able to visit the country on a laissez-passer, a temporary travel document to permit the child to enter the country with her father. 

Morris’ ex-husband seized their documents and refused to give them back. Before her visa expired, she says he “entered and exited” her out of the country. She now has multiple stampings of visas on her passport.

Her ex-husband soon registered a hotel room under his name, and for the past three years, that is where Morris and her daughter have been staying. Every week, he’d come by and drop off groceries, food, and water. Then, on 30 March 2022, he reportedly picked Tala up in the early morning and she was never returned. All phone calls went unanswered.

Under Saudi law, the male controls legal guardianship. This is still in place despite a Saudi court granting Morris full custody of her daughter. On top of that, Morris’ ex-husband had converted her daughter’s US citizenship to Saudi citizenship. Morris is now free to leave, but cannot take her daughter with her. Seeing no other form of recourse, Morris publicly criticized the government and these laws on Twitter, setting off a chain of events that has culminated with the Saudi government apparently seeking to bring criminal charges against the US citizen. Her ex-husband was instrumental in this push to punish Morris, filing his own “slander and defamation” criminal complaint against her.

The threat to Morris’ freedom (even as limited as it currently is) is real. Human Rights Watch notes that two other women have been jailed for decades on similar charges.

Saudi courts have recently convicted and sentenced at least two other women on similar charges for their peaceful online speech. On August 9, an appeals court sentenced Salma al-Shehab, a Saudi doctoral student at the University of Leeds, to 34 years in prison for “disrupt[ing] the order and fabric of society.” That same day, Saudi courts sentenced Nourah bin Saeed al-Qahtani to 45 years in prison for “using the internet to tear the [country’s] social fabric.”

This is where the US government should intervene. It may make things uncomfortable, but if it doesn’t stand up for one of its own, it will only encourage the Saudi government to continue targeting foreign citizens with criminal charges over speech that would not be illegal in their native lands.

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Comments on “Saudi Prosecutors Are Targeting A US Citizen For Tweets Criticizing The Government”

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That One Guy (profile) says:


Nice victim blaming there.

She divorced the scumbag and was only in the country on a visit because apparently she didn’t realize just how disgusting he was, the vile individual she was visiting stole her travel documents to prevent her and her daughter from leaving, imprisoned her and then kidnapped her daughter due to the barbaric laws, and her ‘not following the rules’ was simply objecting to said barbarism in a country she’s not allowed to leave.

But sure, it’s her fault this is happening to her.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Do you feel good when you step on people?

If a supermarket manager kidnaps your child for eating an apple before you went to pay for it, then you deserve to lose your child forever because you should’ve stopped your child from eating the apple.

If you’re in their [supermarket], follow their rules.

Victim blaming should never take priority over having basic empathy and decency.

Anonymous Coward says:

This also shows why you want to use VPN, combined with Tor to make yourself impossible to trace

Some posts I have made here probably have drawn tne interest of the Feds and other LEOs, for example, posting information on how women from abortion-illegal states can go to abortion legal states and evade location tracking, including avdocating clinics using jammmers to prevent law enforcement in states were abortion is banned from being able to get tracking data.

Law enforcement around the world can break into the database backend, and get the data they need and never be detected.

If the Feds wanted information on anyone posting here, they could break in to the database backend and Mike wold never know feds were in his database because MySQL and server level databases have on flaw, no logging.

By combining VPN and Tor, it will guarantee you will never be traced. I highly recommend it.

Anonymous Coward says:


This also shows why you want to use VPN, combined with Tor to make yourself impossible to trace

And just what protection does that offer when using a social media account where you want to be identified so that family and friends can follow you?. They are of no value when someone like an ex-husband turns you in to the authorities. Those tool are not magic pixie dust, but part of a toolkit for when you wish to remain anonymous, which requires a lot of care over what and where you post.

nasch (profile) says:


Law enforcement around the world can break into the database backend, and get the data they need and never be detected.

Only if the data is there. Techdirt might not even log anything useful about commenters. Also, law enforcement doesn’t have magical powers. If the system doesn’t have an unpatched vulnerability, they won’t be able to get in. Obviously it’s impossible to know how many undisclosed zero day exploits are out there, but it’s not a sure thing.

Anonymous Coward says:


Gender dysphoria is a valid diagnosis under DSMV, and sex reassignment surgery is a treatment that is only given when all other forms of treating gender dysphoria has either been exhausted or if the patient wants it, and even then, it takes a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, endocrinologists and other medical professionals to monitor and advise the patient, if done correctly.

And yes, this is knowing that there are people it there who support circumventing this fucking process because their politicians want to impose white supremacist bullshit into their governments.

No one is fucking “brainwashing” people into sex reassignment surgery OR circumcision, NeoNazi. Gender dysphoria doesn’t make as much money than the COIVD vaccine.

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