Twitter manager convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia

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Twitter manager convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia

A former Twitter manager accused of snooping for Saudi Arabia was convicted Tuesday on six criminal counts including acting as an agent for the country and trying to disguise a payment from an official tied to Saudi s royal family.

Ahmad Abouammo, a dual U.S. citizen who oversees relationships with journalists and celebrities in the Middle East and North Africa, was found guilty of a 2 -- 1 2 week trial in San Francisco federal court.

Jurors acquitted him on five of the 11 counts he faced.

Federal defenders representing Abouammo did not respond to requests for comment. Twitter didn't want to say anything.

Abouammo, a close adviser to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, recruited Abouammo to use his insider knowledge to access Twitter accounts and dig up personal information about Saudi dissidents, according to the Prosecutors.

Those accounts were allegedly included mujtahidd, a pseudonym for a political agitator who gained millions of followers on Twitter in the Arab Spring by accusing the Saudi royal family of corruption and other misdeeds.

Abouammo received $300,000 and a $20,000 luxury watch from Al-Asaker, and concealed the money by depositing it in a relative s account in Lebanon and wired it to his own account in the United States, according to the Prosecutors.

Defense lawyers argued that the work Abouammo did on Twitter was simply part of his job.

Abouammo was also convicted of wire fraud and honest services fraud, money laundering and a conspiracy charge.

The jury found that Abouammo violated a sacred trust to keep private information from Twitter's customers and sold private customer information to a foreign government, according to the U.S. attorney Stephanie Hinds in San Francisco.

Ali Alzabarah, a former colleague of Abouammo, was accused of accessing Twitter accounts on behalf of Saudi Arabia and leaving the United States before being charged. Al-Asaker, Saudi's crown prince and Twitter are not among the defendants.