Latest in a recent series of long jail terms for independent information providers
Reporters Without Borders condemns the seven-year jail term that a Jeddah criminal court specializing in national security and terrorism passed on independent news photographer Jassim Mekki A’al Safar on 18 June. He was also sentenced to a seven-year ban on foreign travel after his release. Safar was accused of “posting photos and videos on YouTube that could discredit the kingdom,” “posting photos of prisoners in public places,” “creating a terrorist cell,” “chanting anti-government slogans at protests” and “meeting with foreign reporters.” He was one of a total of 11 activists who were given sentences ranging from four to 19 years in prison on 18 June on charges that including sedition and “demonstrating.” The sentencing ending a trial that began on 26 November. Three of the years that made up Safar’s seven-year term were imposed under the March 2007 cyber-crime law. According to the Arabic Network For Human Rights Information, Safar told the judge during the trial that he had been tortured and mistreated since his arrest, but the judge rejected his claims. “As Safar was convicted and sentenced for providing information, we call for his immediate and unconditional release and the quashing for his conviction,” said Reporters Without Borders assistant research director Virginie Dangles. “We are extremely concerned to see so many Saudi news and information providers being convicted and given very severe sentences. This violates Saudi Arabia’s international obligations.” Other recent victims of the crackdown include Waleed Abu Al-Khair, the founder of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA). A Riyadh court sentenced him on 6 July to 15 years in jail on charges of “preparing, storing and transmitting information that undermines public order,” inciting rebellion", "publishing false information with the aim of harming the state, contempt of court" "and creating an NGO without permission". According to Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Khair has also been the victim of mistreatment since his arrest. Well-known writer Mukhlif Al-Shammari’s five-year jail term was upheld on second appeal on 3 July. His sentence also includes a ban on writing for newspapers or websites or appearing in the media, and a ten-year ban on travelling abroad. Fawzan Al-Harbi, one of the founders of the Arabian Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), which monitors human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced on 25 June to seven years in prison and a seven-year ban on foreign travel. The charges on which he was convicted included “preparing, storing and transmitting information that undermines public order” under cyber-crime law.