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Saudi Arabia sentences activist to 10 years in prison over tweets, rights groups say

Imprisoned Saudi pro-democracy campaigner Abdullah Gailan (Photo via Twitter)

Human rights organizations says a Saudi pro-democracy activist has received a 10-year jail sentence for writing tweets critical of the government,  as a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against human rights activists and political dissidents widens.

The Prisoners of Conscience, an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page that the so-called Specialized Criminal Court in the Saudi capital city of Riyadh has passed the ruling on Abdullah Gailan, and slapped a 10-year travel ban on him as well.

Gailan, a graduate of West Chester University, was arrested in May 2021 after he traveled from Pennsylvania to Saudi Arabia to see his family.

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He has apparently been held in conditions that amounted to torture since his arrest by Saudi authorities.

The London-based rights group ALQST, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, said Gailan was tortured and sentenced to 10 years in prison over his critical tweets.

He used to write against joblessness, economic conditions and citizens' rights in posts published on social media platforms, according to online activists.

Since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested hundreds of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others for their political activism, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnation of the crackdown.

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Muslim scholars have been executed and women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured as freedom of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied by the kingdom's authorities.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

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