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HRW Slams Saudi Arabia for Sustained Assault on Free Expression

11 January 2016 11:03

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Saudi courts are sentencing prominent reform advocates, activists, and writers to lengthy jail terms – and even death – on vague charges related to the peaceful exercise of free expression, Human Rights Watch said o Monday.

Most recently, on December 21, 2015, a Saudi court sentenced Zuhair Kutbi, a peaceful critic who called for domestic political reform, to four years in prison, a five-year travel ban, and a 15-year ban on media appearances. It is only the latest in a series of harsh judgments against peaceful advocates during King Salman’s first year, Human Right watch said Monday on its website.

“Human rights advocates hoped that King Salman would rein in his country’s repression of peaceful dissidents, but the authorities harass and jail people for peacefully expressing reform-oriented opinions,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director. “The king should put an end to this sustained assault on free expression and release all peaceful activists and writers.”

During 2015, at least six men, including prominent writers, dissidents, and reform advocates, were punished for peaceful expression of their opinions. One was sentenced to death and the others to lengthy prison terms. At least four were also banned from traveling abroad for five to 10 years. Most faced broad, catch-all charges designed to criminalize peaceful dissent, such as “sowing discord,” “reducing the government’s prestige,” and “inciting public opinion.”

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