Pair of Saudi activists sentenced to prison for rights work
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Two Saudi activists have been sentenced to prison in the kingdom on a range of charges related to their rights work and calls for political reform, a human rights lawyer said Wednesday.
Abdelrahman al-Hamid was sentenced to nine years in prison, banned from traveling abroad after his release for another nine years and fined 50,000 Saudi riyals ($13,300). Al-Hamid was a founding member of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights, widely known by its Arabic acronym HASEM.
Many of HASEM’s members are already in prison. Including al-Hamid, six of the group’s founders are in jail serving prison sentences and four are in jail facing trial. Two others are on trial, but not jailed.
The second activist, Abdelaziz al-Sinedi, was sentenced to eight years in prison, banned from traveling for another eight years and also fined 50,000 riyals. He was active on Twitter and signed petitions calling for reform.
The lawyer, who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisal, told The Associated Press they were sentenced Tuesday by Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court, which was established to deal with terrorism cases, but has increasingly also tried activists. A tough anti-terror law came into effect in 2014, defining acts as vague as “defaming the state’s reputation” as terrorism.
Both men are from the kingdom’s conservative heartland of Qassim and are in their 40s. The lawyer, who has been in touch with both men, says they can appeal their verdicts, but could not immediately confirm what specific charges they were found guilty of.
Al-Hamid, who was arrested around a year ago, was accused of illegally establishing a human rights organization, questioning the credibility and independence of the judiciary, disobeying the ruler and interfering in the affairs of the national Saudi Human Rights Commission.
Al-Sinedi, who has been in jail for the past eight months, was charged with inciting public opinion against the country’s rulers, questioning the independence of the judiciary and describing Saudi Arabia as a police state.