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Saudi teacher gets 20 years in prison over social media posts

By: Agence France Presse July 10,2024 - 01:15 AM

Saudi teacher gets 20 years in jail over social media posts. In photo is a map of Saudi Arabia. | Inquirer.net file photo

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a teacher to 20 years in prison over critical social media posts, Human Rights Watch and the convicted man’s brother said Tuesday.

Asaad al-Ghamdi, 47, was arrested in November 2022, in a nighttime raid on his home in the Saudi city of Jeddah, according to HRW.

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He was convicted on May 29 by Saudi Arabia’s Specialised Criminal Court, which was established in 2008 to try suspects accused of terrorism, the New York-based rights group said.

He was sentenced “to 20 years in prison on charges related to his peaceful social media activity”, HRW added, calling it “yet another escalation in the country’s ever-worsening crackdown on freedom of expression”.

Court documents reviewed by HRW showed that Ghamdi was charged with “challenging the religion and justice of the King and the Crown Prince” and “publishing false and malicious news and rumors”.

According to HRW, the posts used as evidence against him criticised projects related to the Vision 2030 reform agenda.

One post mourned Abdallah al-Hamed, a leading Saudi human rights figure who died in prison following his conviction on charges relating to his activism.

Ghamdi faces the same charges as his brother Mohammad, a government critic who denounced alleged corruption and human rights abuses on social media.

Mohammad was sentenced to death last year based on his social media activity.

Their third brother, Saeed, an Islamic scholar and government critic living in exile in the United Kingdom, condemned the latest move by Saudi authorities.

“The accusations are arbitrary and unjust because they are all based on tweets,” Saeed told AFP, commenting on the verdict against Asaad.

“Maybe I am the target,” he added.

Over the past two years, the Saudi judiciary has convicted and handed down lengthy prison terms to dozens of individuals for their social media posts, according to rights groups.

They include Nourah al-Qahtani, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 2022, largely over social media posts criticising the government

Salma al-Shehab, a member of the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s Shiite minority, was sentenced to 34 years behind bars in 2022 for aiding dissidents seeking to “disrupt public order” in the kingdom by relaying their tweets.

Manahel al-Otaibi, a 29-year-old blogger and fitness instructor, was arrested in November 2022 for challenging Saudi male guardianship laws and requirements for women to wear the customary body-shrouding abaya robe.

The Specialised Criminal Court sentenced her to 11 years in prison on January 9, but the sentence was only made public later in a Saudi submission to United Nations special rapporteurs enquiring about the case.

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TAGS: 20 years in prison, Saudi teacher

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