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US democratic senator urges investigation into Saudi Arabia's ownership of Twitter shares

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A US Democratic American senator has called for a full national security review of a Saudi Arabian company's successful acquisition of a massive share in Twitter.

Tweeting on Monday, Chris Murphy said he wanted the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) -- which reviews acquisitions of US businesses by foreign buyers -- "to conduct an investigation into the national security implications of Saudi Arabia's purchase of Twitter."

The call came after the Kingdom Holding Company, which is owned by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, said in a statement that they will continue their ownership of Twitter shares valued at $1.89 billion even after purchase of the social media platform by the American billionaire, Elon Musk. 

"The deal is in line with the long-term investment strategy which Kingdom Holding Company is known for," the statement added.

The sheer size of its share has made the Saudi company the second-largest owner of Twitter after Musk, who closed a $44-billion deal in April to take over the popular social media platform.

Alwaleed's company is 16.9% owned by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Ever since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler in 2017, the kingdom has been implicated in a litany of human rights abuses. They include Riyadh arresting hundreds of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and other people for their political activism, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnation of the crackdown.

The Saudi royal is also accused of ordering the 2018 brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US-Saudi citizen, who used to be a vocal critic of the Saudi royalty. Khashoggi was dismembered during a visit to the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

"We should be concerned that the Saudis, who have a clear interest in repressing political speech and impacting US politics, are now the second-largest owner of a major social media platform," Murphy wrote on Twitter, adding, "There is a clear national security issue at stake and CFIUS should do a review."

Neither Saudi embassy in Washington, nor Twitter responded to a request for comment. A spokesman for U.S. Treasury, which leads CFIUS, also declined to comment.

Most foreigners seeking to take even non-controlling stakes in US companies must seek approval from CFIUS, which reviews transactions for national
security concerns and has the power to block them.

Musk's purchase of Twitter came under criticism over a sizable funding that the Saudi prince allocated to the platform.

“The SpaceX founder relied on equity from other investors to carry out the deal. Alwaleed, a Saudi prince, and CEO of the Kingdom Holding Company committed $1.89 billion—equating to nearly 35 million shares—in equity to help Musk purchase Twitter,” media reports underlined.

Musk's reliance on Saudi Arabia drew harsh criticism over Riyadh's stifling of free expression and human rights violations at home and aboard.

"There's not been enough scrutiny of the fact that Elon Musk's Twitter takeover has been propped up with cash from Qatar & Saudi Arabia," tweeted Business Insider's Ryan Gallagher.

He added, "Twitter was prev compromised by Saudi spies who used internal data to out dissidents & have them jailed. Surprising any new owner of Twitter - especially one professing to be a free-speech absolutist - would want Saudi influence anywhere near the platform."

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