Saudi human rights activist jailed for eight years

Saudi human rights activist jailed for eight years

A Saudi court has sentenced a member of an independent human rights organisation to eight years in prison in the latest guilty verdict to be issued against the group's members, Amnesty International said.

Abdulaziz al-Shubaily is a founding member of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights, known by its Arabic acronym, Hasem.

He had acted as a legal representative for nine other founding Hasem members.

Amnesty said he was tried on Sunday by the Specialised Criminal Court - established to try terrorism cases, but increasingly used for trials of political activists whose work is deemed a national security risk.

A sweeping anti-terrorism law came into effect in 2014, defining acts as vague as "defaming the state's reputation" as terrorism.

Amnesty said al-Shubaily was also barred from travelling abroad for eight years after his release and forbidden from writing on social media.

His charges included "communicating with foreign organisations" and providing information to Amnesty for use in its reports.

He was additionally charged with inciting people to breach public order and accusing security forces of repression and torture, according to Amnesty.

In 2013, prominent founding Hasem activists, Mohammed al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid, were sentenced to 10 and 11 years respectively.

Soon after, other verdicts against the group followed against nearly a dozen members.

In April of this year, Issa al-Hamid, another founding member of Hasem and Abdullah al-Hamid's brother, was sentenced to nine years in prison in what Amnesty International described at the time as part of a wider "ruthless onslaught against civil society" by Saudi authorities.

The group was shut down three years ago, not long after a swell of Arab Spring uprisings demanding political reforms, transparency and social justice swept across much of the region.

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