Saudi Arabia sentences young blogger to 15 years in jail
As Riyadh intensifies its clampdown on dissent, a court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a young activist and blogger to 15 years behind bars for his anti-regime activities.
The Special Criminal Court in Riyadh convicted Fadhel al-Manasef of attending anti-regime demonstrations and defaming the kingdom by contacting foreign judicial and media outlets and publishing articles against state security on the Internet, his lawyer Waleed Sulais said on Thursday.
Sulais also said that the Riyadh court had fined the 26-year-old activist 100,000 riyals (USD 26,700) and imposed a 15-year travel ban on him once his jail sentence ends.
However, Manasef has denied the charges, said his lawyer, adding that he plans to appeal the verdict.
In a similar move on April 16, a Riyadh court ordered the arrest of Waleed Abulkhair, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist, on charges of sedition.
Abulkhair was already on bail after he received a three-month jail term by another court, last October, for “insulting judiciary” and a petition he had signed two years earlier criticizing the Saudi authorities.
Human Rights Watch has called on Saudi Arabia to release Abulkhair, saying, “Saudi authorities have repeatedly harassed Abulkhair for his human rights work.”
The Al Saud regime has come under harsh international criticism for its human rights record.
Protests against the Al Saud family have intensified since November 2011, when security forces opened fire on protesters in Qatif in Eastern Province, killing five people and leaving scores more injured.
Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
Last October, Amnesty International 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.”