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Saudi operative threatened women dissidents in US and Canada via Instagram

Saudi student in Mississippi arrested by FBI for lying about the anonymous account he used to intimidate critics of the kingdom
A woman checks her Instagram account as she stands on a street in New York city on 4 October 2021 (AFP)

A Saudi man used an anonymous Instagram account to threaten dissidents in the United States and Canada who were critical of Saudi Arabia, according to recently unsealed court filings. 

Ibrahim al-Hussayen was arrested for lying to FBI officials about using the account to intimidate Saudis - mainly women - living in North America, documents from a federal court in Brooklyn revealed on Tuesday.

'MBS will wipe you off the face of the earth, you will see'

- message sent to dissident by Ibrahim al-Hussayen

The 42-year-old had been living in the US since 2013 on a student visa, where he was obtaining a PhD from a Mississippi university when the threatening messages were sent.

On his US visa application, Hussayen stated his occupation was "government" and his employer was the "Saudi royal court".

One of the messages, sent in 2020, read, “soon, I will know where you are and get you, bitch".

He told another Saudi woman, who sought asylum in America because her family allegedly wanted to kill her, that he hoped to spit in her face. 

Al-Hussayen posted a comment on the same woman’s Instagram account in February 2020 stating: “I hope you will have the same fate/end up as Nada al-Qahtani”. 

Qahtani was fatally shot by her brother while travelling to university in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province in January 2020. 

In another message, he warned a dissident that “MBS will wipe you off the face of the earth, you will see,” referring to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Since becoming the de facto leader of the kingdom in 2017, the crown prince has carried out a harsh crackdown on human rights activists and dissidents, much of which has been played out online.

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In late 2019, the US government charged three Saudis - including two former Twitter employees - with spying for Saudi Arabia. They were suspected of accessing the confidential information of thousands of users, including the accounts of prominent dissidents.

According to the filings, al-Hussayen was in frequent contact with a Saudi citizen employed by the kingdom’s sports ministry. 

One of the women he targeted had criticised Turki al-Sheikh, a close adviser to the crown prince and the head of the Saudi Arabian entertainment authority. 

Al-Hussayen tried to find out the New York-based dissident’s location by claiming he could arrange a meeting between her and Sheikh. 

Prosecutors also stated that he had saved multiple screenshots of tweets by Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in October 2018 by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. 

The court's filings have been revealed just weeks before US President Joe Biden is due to visit Saudi Arabia. 

Biden is planning to visit Israel, the occupied West Bank, and Saudi Arabia during a four-day trip from 13 to 16 July.

The visit will culminate with a major gathering of regional leaders in the Saudi port city of Jeddah where the president is expected to engage in some capacity with Mohammed bin Salman.