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Saudi Arabia sentences university professor to 30 years in prison over tweets, journo says

Imprisoned Saudi university professor Muhammad bin Mohsin al-Basra

Saudi Arabian authorities have arrested and sentenced a university professor to 30 years in prison for critical tweets about the House of Saud, its propaganda policies and the security situation in the kingdom.

Saudi journalist Turki al-Shalhoub, who earlier caused public uproar after exposing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s controversial plans against highly revered sites in the country, tweeted on Tuesday that the State Security Court had passed the ruling on Muhammad bin Mohsin al-Basra – a professor at the media faculty of Umm al-Qura University in Mecca.

Shalhoub cited a series of connected Tweets from Basra, and wrote that he had blasted the disinformation campaign being exercised by the Saudi-owned and Dubai-based al-Arabiya television news network, Qatar’s three-year-old diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries, and the security situation in the country.

“Saudi security forces only intervene when the sovereignty of the House of Saud is threatened; otherwise they would not take any serious actions,” the journalist commented.

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Last month, the Prisoners of Conscience, an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, reported that state officials had detained pro-democracy campaigner Fadi Ibrahim Nasser over tweets that criticized the Saudi government, and the policies of the Al Saud regime vis-à-vis joblessness among Saudi citizens.

Earlier that month, human rights organizations said a Saudi activist had received a 10-year jail sentence for writing tweets critical of the government.

The Prisoners of Conscience said at the time that the so-called Specialized Criminal Court in the Saudi capital city of Riyadh issued the verdict against Abdullah Gailan on November 15, and slapped a 10-year travel ban on him as well.

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Hundreds of Saudi activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others have been arrested ever since bin Salman took helm of state affairs in 2017 as de facto leader.

The aggressive crackdown is an obvious sign of almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnation of the repressive measures.

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

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