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Saudi Arabia jails nearly a dozen Egyptians for up to 18 years over 1973 Arab-Israeli War

In this file picture, Saudi men walk outside the General Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Reuters)

A Saudi court has sentenced 10 Egyptian men for up to 18 years over trying to organize a remembrance event for the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Yom Kippur War, between the Tel Aviv regime and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria. 

Two relatives, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, told AFP news agency that the court found the men, from Nubian ethnic group,  guilty of establishing a “terrorist group.”

The Egyptian men were first arrested in October 2019 for trying to organize the event. They were released without charge in December that year, but were re-arrested the following July.

“I have intense anger at the extreme injustice to which our people have been subjected,” the relative said.

One man received an 18-year sentence, one was jailed for 16 years, two for 14 years and the others for between 10 and 12 years, the relative said.

Rights groups had previously campaigned for the men's release, and denounced the proceedings against them as a "travesty" of justice.

They said the men were being prosecuted “for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression in trying to organize a community event.”

Activists said the men had been “denied regular family contact and only allowed access to government-appointed lawyers,” and that “at least two of them are elderly and in ill health.”

Three of the men are over 60 years old, the relative said.

Prominent human rights group Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in a Twitter post, denounced Monday's sentences as “harsh.”

Democracy for the Arab World Now, a US-based advocacy organization, also said the rulings were “unfair.”

The report comes amid Saudi Arabia’s back-channel attempts to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel.

Back on July 15, Saudi Arabia, in an apparent gesture of openness towards Israel, announced that it was lifting restrictions on “all carriers” using its airspace.

The Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said in a statement on its Twitter page at the time that the country's airspace was open to all carriers that meet its requirements for over flights, in line with international conventions that say there should be no discrimination between civil aircraft.

The move was welcomed by US President Joe Biden, who was scheduled to land in Saudi Arabia for a controversial visit.

Saudi Arabia did not show any opposition when the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco in 2020 became the first Arab countries in decades to normalize relations with Israel in a deal brokered by former US President Donald Trump.

The oil-rich kingdom is yet to jump on the bandwagon, but the two sides have seen growing contacts and de-facto rapprochement in recent years, despite claims that it is committed to the 2002 so-called Arab Peace Initiative, which conditions normalizing ties with Israel on the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

The Riyadh regime in November 2020 granted permission for Israeli airlines to use its airspace, hours before the first Israeli flight to the UAE was set to take off.

Palestinian leaders, activists and ordinary people have repeatedly rejected Arab-Israeli normalization deals as “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people.”

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