Two Saudi men go to prison for over five years because of Twitter posts

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Tweeting has played a part in the sentencing of two separate Saudi men to time in prison.

The two men, whose names have not been released, have both received severe penalties for sending out tweets. The first was given ten years for sending out messages on Twitter that were encouraging protests and which “undermined” the leadership in the country.

“The accused had sent invitations via Twitter to participate in protests and gatherings against the Kingdom,” said a statement by SPA, the state -run news organization, who were quoting Fahad Al-Bakran, the  Saudi Justice Ministry’s spokesman .

The man was already serving a three year sentence for using websites which were “hostile to the government and that promote deviant ideologies.” Saudi officials generally refer to sites linked with Al-Qaeda in this manner.

The second man has received an sentence of eight years in prison for tweets which allegedly insulted King Abdullah. After the man’s sentence is over he is also unable to travel for eight years as well.

According to the SPA, the man 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.”

While those in the Saudi government have their reasons, people like Dwight Bashir, who is the deputy director for policy and research for the the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, feels that these are just excuses to squash dissent.

“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 Bashir.

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

[via CNN]

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