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Saudi activist given 2-year jail term over tweets

16 November 2016 14:01

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Saudi Arabia has handed down a 2-year prison sentence to an activist on charges that he used Twitter to encourage protests against the ruling Al Saud regime and to urge the release of political prisoners.

The unnamed man was found guilty and sentenced to jail by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh on Wednesday for his tweets, among other offenses. This Saudi court’s jurisdiction involves terrorism-related charges.

The activist was accused of opening Twitter accounts and using them to call for gatherings against the Saudi regime, and inciting “riots” to demand the release of detainees who are imprisoned for security and terrorism charges.

His charges included being hostile to the Saudi dynasty and publishing posts offensive to security forces as well as King Salman.

According to Saudi media, the man’s mobile has been confiscated and his active Twitter account shut. He is also barred from traveling and posting messages on social media sites for two years after his release.

The monarchy is consistently singled out and criticized for its widespread violation of human rights. US-based Human Rights Watch and UK-based Amnesty International have both condemned Saudi Arabia for cracking down on activists and political dissidents.

Back in March, the Amnesty released a statement, saying the kingdom had enforced an “abusive” anti-terror law, which associates peaceful protests with terrorism and allows it to hand down lengthy jail terms to peaceful critics and human rights activists after holding “deeply unfair” trials for them.

Saudi Arabia has put several prominent reform activists behind bars since 2001 when the country’s first criminal procedure code was introduced.

The regime allows for up to 10 years of imprisonment for anyone who is charged with offending the Saudi monarch and causing panic among the public.

On July 6, 2014, the Special Criminal Court in Jeddah brought charges against prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, the founder and director of Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with five years’ probation and a 15-year travel ban as well as a fine of 200,000 Saudi riyals (approximately $53,300).

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