Cyber crime law used again to silence dissident voices

Co-founder of Saudi human rights watchdog receives seven-year sentence and travel ban for highlighting abuses

A Riyadh court sentenced Fawzan Al-Harbi, a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) which records abuses by the Saudi authorities, to seven years’ imprisonment on 25 June and ordered him not to leave the country for the same duration after he has served his sentence. He was also banned from writing on social networks. “Reporters Without Borders condemns in the strongest terms the conviction of Fawzan Al-Harbi and the continual use of the law on cyber crime to muzzle human rights activists,” said Virginie Dangles, deputy head of research and advocacy at Reporters Without Borders. “After the orchestrated conviction Waleed Abu Al Khair, founder of the Monitor of Human Rights, the cases against Fawzan Al-Harbi and his colleagues shows the Saudi monarchy’s determination to flout basic freedoms.” Al-Harbi was charged among other things with “preparing, storing and disseminating information harmful to public order” and was convicted under article 3 of the 2007 law against cyber crime. He was also accused of taking part in the creation of an unlicensed NGO with the aim of dividing the people, of signing petitions calling for respect for human rights and of criticizing Saudi authorities, including equating Saudi Arabia with a police state. His arrest was ordered during a hearing at his trial last December and was released some four weeks later. He appealed against his conviction on 25 June. Two other prominent human rights activists who are also co-founders of ACPRA, Abdullah bin Hamid bin Ali Al-Hamid, 66, and Mohamed bin Fahad bin Muflih Al-Qahtani, 47, were sentenced respectively to 10 and 11 years’ imprisonment and received subsequent travel bans of the same duration. In April 2012, Mohammed Saleh Al-Bajady, also accused of helping to set up ACPRA, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment followed by a five-year travel ban.
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Updated on 20.01.2016