Saudi Court Slams Journalist With Five-year Jail Term Over Tweets

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SAN FRANCISCO, March 25, (THEWILL) – Amnesty International has revealed that a Saudi journalist has been handed a five-year jail term over tweets deemed insulting to the kingdom's rulers.

Alaa Brinji, who has reportedly already served two years behind bars, was found guilty on Thursday of a list of charges including “insulting the rulers (and) inciting public opinion,” the rights group said in a statement on Friday.

Brinji, who worked for Saudi newspapers Al-Bilad, Okaz and Al-Sharq, was also convicted of “accusing security officers of killing protesters” in the Shiite town of Awamiya in Saudi's restive Eastern Province, it added.

The group said the journalist had been tried in a “notorious” counter-terrorism court that also found Brinji guilty of “ridiculing Islamic religious figures.”

In addition to the jail term, Brinji has been slapped with a fine of 50,000 riyals ($13,333) and an eight-year travel ban, it said, pointing out that he has been in detention since May 2014, including an initial period of incommunicado solitary confinement.

Amnesty's regional deputy head James Lynch slammed Brinji's sentence as “utterly shameful”.

“He is the latest victim of Saudi Arabia's ruthless crackdown on peaceful dissent, where the aim appears to be to completely wipe out any and all voices of criticism,” he said.

“Putting someone behind bars for peacefully exercising his legitimate right to freedom of expression, and defending the rights of others to do so, is a complete distortion of the very notion of justice.

“The authorities must ensure his conviction is quashed and release him immediately and unconditionally,” Lynch added, insisting that Saudi Arabia “must be held accountable for its gross and systematic violations of human rights.”

Awamiya, a town of about 30,000 in Eastern Province, has been the scene of repeated incidents since 2011.

Story  by David Oputah