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Saudi Arabia jails two human rights activists

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Saudi Specialized Criminal Court (file photo)

Saudi Arabia has sentenced two human rights activists to prison for various charges, including calling for political reform, a human rights lawyer says.

The lawyer, speaking anonymously over fear of reprisal, told the Associated Press that the pair were sentenced by Saudi Arabia's Specialized Criminal Court on Tuesday.

The court was initially established to deal with cases related to terrorism but since a 2014 law that defined actions towards “defaming the state’s reputation” as terrorism, it has been convicting rights activists.    

According to the lawyer, both men, who are in their 40s and from the country’s central al-Qassim region, do have the right to appeal the court verdicts.

Abdelrahman al-Hamid, the founding member of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (HASEM), received a nine year sentence and was banned from traveling abroad  for another nine years after his release. He also should pay a penalty equal to $13,300.  

He was arrested last year over accusations of the illegal establishment of a human rights organization and questioning the judiciary’s credibility and independence.  

A large number of HASEM’s members are currently behind bars. Apart from Hamid, six other founders are serving time in Saudi prisons and four others are yet to be sentenced.   

The second activist, Abdelaziz al-Sinedi, received an eight-year sentence plus an eight-year travel ban and a $13,300 fine for social media activity concerning calling for reforms.

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