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Saudi officials extend prison sentence given to senior human rights activist: NGO

Saudi authorities have reportedly extended the prison sentence handed down to a prominent human rights activist and political dissident as a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman widens despite the kingdom’s much-touted social reforms.

The Prisoners of Conscience, an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page that officials have extended the term of Khaled al-Omair’s imprisonment from 7 to 9 years.

They also imposed a nine-year travel ban on him, and filed new lawsuits against him.

Last April, the so-called Specialized Criminal Court in the Saudi capital city of Riyadh sentenced Omair to seven years in prison.

The Prisoners of Conscience reported at the time that the ruling against the activist was on the basis of false accusations that he was “leading activities aimed at harming the security of the kingdom.”

Saudi authorities re-arrested Omair in July 2018, only six months after his release.

He was detained because he had submitted a complaint to the authorities against those who tortured him during his previous 10-year prison sentence, after he called for a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip back in 2008.

The London-based rights group ALQST, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, said Saudi officials prevented Omair from attending the funeral of his father, who died in March 2019.

The organization tweeted that Omair demanded to be released on parole to visit his father after his health deteriorated. Saudi authorities, however, turned down the request until his father passed away.

ALQST noted that the Saudi prison authorities also refused to allow Omair to go out to visit his sick mother in hospital.

Ever since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

Muslim Saudi scholars have been executed, women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured, and freedom of expression, association and belief continue to be denied.

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