(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia has stepped up arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of peaceful dissident writers and human rights advocates in 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. In January, a Saudi court sentenced two prominent activists to long jail terms, accusing them of being in contact with international media and human rights organizations. The authorities jailed two others, one of whom remains in detention while under investigation.
Saudi courts have convicted at least 20 prominent activists and dissidents since 2011. Many faced sentences as long as 10 or 15 years on broad, catch-all charges such as “breaking allegiance with the ruler” or “participating in protests” that do not constitute recognizable crimes.
“Saudi Arabia is trying to silence and lock away anyone who doesn’t toe the official line or dares to express an independent view on politics, religion, or human rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “When will the Saudi authorities understand that talking to the media or an international organization should not be a crime.”