Saudi court sentences activists to 11-year jail terms

Saudi court sentences activists to 11-year jail terms
Sat May 10, 2014 10:00:04

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced two young activists to 11 years of prison for “inciting anti-regime demonstrations” in the town of Awamiyah, the Qatif region of Eastern Province.

The Jeddah court on Friday gave one defendant a five-year sentence and the other a six-year sentence. Each of the defendants was also fined $13,000.

The two were found guilty of giving news coverage to anti-regime demonstrations in Qatif and publishing videos of street protests online.

Qatif demonstrators took to the streets to demand release of political prisoners. They also demanded equal rights and an end to government corruption and discrimination against the Shia community in the country.

Thousands of political prisoners are reportedly being held behind bars in Saudi Arabia.

Sa’ad al-Faqih, the head of the UK-based Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, said on April 23 that the number of jailed activists ranged from 25,000 to 30,000.

Faqih also accused the government of stepping up the crackdown on dissent since the beginning of 2014.

In November 2011, Saudi security forces opened fire on protesters in Qatif. Five people were killed and scores more were injured.

Last October, human rights group Amnesty International censured Saudi authorities for not addressing the “dire human rights situation” in the kingdom.

The group also handed in a paper to the United Nations, which included information regarding a “new wave of repression against civil society, which has taken place over the last two years.”

According to the Persian Gulf Research Center, Saudi Arabia implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly in defiance of global criticism.

Peaceful demonstrations and gatherings are banned and many people have been jailed merely for posting harmless messages on social media, it said.

A new vaguely-worded anti-terrorism law granting sweeping powers to the authorities, has raised fears of a renewed crackdown on peaceful dissent in the name of defending national security, the rights organization added.


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