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Twitter post lands two men in prison

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Two men were found guilty in Saudi courts this week for,
among other offenses, messages they posted on Twitter.
On Monday, one Saudi man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for
using Twitter to encourage protests and undermine the country’s
leadership, according to Saudi Arabian state news agency SPA.
“The accused had sent invitations via Twitter to participate in
protests and gatherings against the Kingdom,” read SPA’s statement,
quoting Saudi Justice Ministry spokesman Fahad Al-Bakran.
Al-Bakran added how the unnamed man, already serving a three-
year jail sentence, was convicted of utilizing websites that are “hostile
to the government and that promote deviant ideologies.” Saudi officials
often use the phrase “deviant ideologies” when describing al Qaeda or
al Qaeda-linked groups.
On Sunday, another man, accused of insulting King
Abdullah and inciting protests via social media sites like
Twitter, was sentenced to eight years in jail.
According to SPA, he’s also barred from travel and
from posting messages on social media sites for eight
years after his release.
The man, also unidentified by SPA, was found guilty
of “inciting relatives of Saudis arrested for security
reasons to protest their imprisonment by tweeting and
via posting videos on sites like YouTube.”
Al-Bakran added the man had been arrested once
before for similar offenses, but was released after signing
a pledge never to do so again.
Both sentences come just days after Saudi Arabia
officially declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a
terrorist organization.
On Friday, the country’s Interior Ministry announced
that the Brotherhood, as well as the Islamic State of
Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al-Nusra Front and other
groups had been formally designated terrorist
organizations.
American detained in UAE over parody video speaks
out
The statement also detailed the country’s new, comprehensive anti-
terror legislation, warning any Saudi or foreigner residing in Saudi
Arabia they could be sentenced to heavy jail terms for joining extremist
groups or fighting alongside them.
Many, however, maintain the new laws are a barely disguised effort
to quash dissent, pointing to the fact that Friday’s Interior Ministry
statement also criminalized atheism, more specifically, any Saudi or
resident of Saudi Arabia “propagating atheist ideologies by any means,
or questioning the principles of Islamic faith.”
“It’s unfortunate that the statement comingles the (Saudi) government’s
ongoing intent to severely limit freedoms of expression and religion
with its efforts to counter extremism and terrorism,” said Dwight
Bashir, deputy director for policy and research with the United
States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“It reinforces longstanding concerns that the Saudis will spare no
expense to crush dissent,” Bashir told CNN, “and punish non-
conforming views, even if the views are protected by internationally-
recognized human rights.”
Bashir called the move to criminalize atheism “very troubling,” adding
it was “consistent with the way the Saudis masquerade ‘insults to
religious feelings’ as a way of garnering support for other laws that
seek to counter religious extremism and name specific entities as terror
groups.”
Saudi Arabia, which has jailed several prominent reform activists in
the past two years, is consistently singled out and criticized for its
human rights record.
In a statement from late February, Adam Coogle, a Saudi
researcher for Human Rights Watch, wrote the new anti-terror
legislation has “created a veneer of legality for ongoing human rights
abuses by Saudi criminal justice authorities.”
“The terrorism law,” added Coogle, “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.”

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