Members of the Saudi special police unit prepare to perform a parade in Mecca, on October 9, 2013
Members of the Saudi special police unit prepare to perform a parade in Mecca, on October 9, 2013 © Fayez Nureldine - AFP/File
Members of the Saudi special police unit prepare to perform a parade in Mecca, on October 9, 2013
AFP
Last updated: June 26, 2014

Amnesty slams Saudi jailing of rights activist

Rights group Amnesty International has condemned a Saudi court decision to jail an activist for seven years, labelling the charges as "spurious" and urging that the sentence be quashed.

A court in Riyadh passed the sentence on Fowzan al-Harbi on Tuesday and also banned him from travelling for a further seven years, Amnesty said in a statement.

Harbi was convicted on several charges, including "breaking allegiance" with the ruler, criticising the authorities in the absolute monarchy and participating in founding an "unlicenced organisation".

"Harbi has been ruthlessly targeted for daring to question the Saudi authorities’ human rights record," said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty's deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Harbi, 36, is a founder of the local Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), and was jailed in December 2013, when a judge ordered his arrest without providing a reason, according to Amnesty.

He was released on Monday, a day before his conviction, and is currently free pending the outcome of an appeal.

Harbi faced charges including "inciting disobedience to the ruler by calling for demonstrations", and "signing documents that incite public opinion against the authorities", Amnesty said.

He was also accused of "describing the Saudi Arabian state as a 'police state'", "accusing the judiciary of being incapable of delivering justice", and "ignoring judicial decisions" ordering the dissolution of ACPRA.

Other members of ACPRA have been sentenced in the past, including co-founders Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammad al-Qahtani, jailed for 10 and 11 years respectively in March 2013.

"The Saudi government’s persecution of ACPRA and its members illustrates its callous disregard for human rights," said Boumedouha.

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