Two former Twitter employees, along with another individual, were charged on Wednesday for allegedly spying on Twitter users critical of the Saudi royal family, the US Justice Department has announced.
After leaving Twitter in 2015, Abouammo allegedly continued to act on behalf of Saudi Arabia by contacting his former colleagues with requests including taking down and verifying certain account activities, the charges said.
One of the accounts, we're told, belonged to Omar Abdulaziz, a political activist who was friends with Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post and outspoken critic of the Saudi royals, who was murdered by Saudi agents previous year.
The Saudi government, frustrated by growing criticism of its leaders and policies on social media, recruited two Twitter employees to gather confidential personal information on thousands of accounts that included prominent opponents, prosecutors alleged Wednesday.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left) is reported to be "Royal Family Member-1", who is mentioned in a U.S. indictment over an alleged plot to use Twitter data to spy on dissidents.
Abouammo, the only one now in United States custody after his arrest in Seattle Tuesday, is also charged with attempting to obstruct the FBI's investigation by providing agents with a fake invoice.
In a statement to ABC News, a Twitter spokesperson said: "We would like to thank the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice for their support with this investigation".
The lawsuit comes as US-Saudi relations continue to suffer strains over the brutal, Riyadh-sanctioned murder a year ago of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for, among others, The Washington Post.
The spokesman declined to share any more information, but noted that the company has tools to protect the privacy of Twitter users who face risks when they share their views.
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Investigators also alleged that a Saudi working as a social media adviser for the Saudi royal family in 2015 recruited Twitter engineer Ali Alzabarah by flying him to Washington, D.C., for a private meeting with an unnamed member of the family.
Saudi Arabia, a key USA ally in confronting Iran, has faced intense Western criticism over its human rights record, including over last year's murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and its involvement in the devastating war in Yemen.
Mr Khashoggi was murdered during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
CNN has reached out to the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC, for comment.
Alzabarah flew with his family from San Francisco to Saudi Arabia in December 2015 and allegedly quit his position with Twitter after his plane had left US airspace.
The next day, he flew to Saudi Arabia with his wife and daughter, allegedly emailing Twitter his resignation while on the flight.
A warrant for his and Almutairi's arrests were issued as part of the complaint.
"We recognize the lengths bad actors will go to try and undermine our service", Twitter said in a statement.