Two Men Given Prison Time In Saudi Arabia For Twitter Posts

| by Jared Keever

Separate courts in Saudi Arabia this week sentenced two men to time in prison for posting messages on Twitter, reports CNN. Both men remain unnamed.

On Sunday, one of the men was sentenced to eight years in jail for insulting Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and inciting protests via Twitter and other social media sites.

Another man, who was already serving three years in prison, was convicted on similar charges and sentenced to an additional 10 years, according to Reuters, who quoted a release from Saudi news agency SPA.

“[He was] convicted of entering an Internet site hostile to the state that encourages fighting and promotes deviant thought,” Saudi justice ministry spokesman Fahd Al-Bakran said. "The accused had sent invitations via Twitter to participate in protests and gatherings against the Kingdom.”

The convictions and stiff penalties raise ongoing concerns over violations of human rights in the country.

Both sentences come close on the heels of new, harsh anti-terror laws, as well as the recent declaration by Saudi Arabia of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Many fear that such a declaration coupled with the country’s new laws could be abused and will lead to efforts by the Saudi government to quash all forms of dissent. The two recent convictions and the subsequent statement from the justice ministry reinforce those fears.

Adam Coogle, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, wrote in a statement in February that the new laws create “a veneer of legality for ongoing human rights abuses by Saudi criminal justice authorities.”

"The terrorism law," he wrote, "is a vague, catch-all document that can — and probably will — be used to prosecute or jail anyone who criticizes the Saudi government and to violate their due process rights along the way."

Dwight Bashir, deputy director for policy and research with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, agrees.

"It reinforces longstanding concerns that the Saudis will spare no expense to crush dissent and punish non-conforming views, even if the views are protected by internationally-recognized human rights," Bashir told CNN.

Sources: CNN, Reuters