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Saudi journalist sentenced to 12 years in prison for "disobeying ruler"

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool

A Saudi court sentenced a journalist to 12 years in prison on 4 February 2013 on charges of "disobeying the ruler" and "discrediting the kingdom" on television.

Journalist Wajdi Al Ghazzawi is owner of Al-Fajr TV Channel and presenter of Fadfada talk show. He was arrested and charged because of statements he broadcasted during seven episodes he aired, each of which had seven elements to it some of which were entitled: Intellectual terrorism, Administrative Corruption, and Saudi Arabia and Terrorism. The prosecution declared that those episodes incited sedition.

Besides the 12-year jail sentence, Ghazzawi was given a 20-year travel ban and was charged with collaborating with anti-state authorities from whom he allegedly received funds estimated at $US 1.8 million.

"The ruling issued against Wajdi Al Ghazzawi as a result of peacefully expressing his opinions and attempting to educate Saudi citizens about the rights they are being deprived of by the Saudi regime is just another stab at silencing the opposition," stated the Arabic Network for Human Rights Studies (ANHRI). "The regime's aim is to impose a media blackout over crimes committed against freedom of opinion and expression in particular, and all freedoms in general. Such actions occur in the shadow of the international community's silence regarding the violations of citizens' rights and its economic engagement with the dictatorial regime.

ANHRI pointed out that the Saudi regime has became an obstacle in the face of any democratic transformation aspired by citizens, opinion makers and freedom seekers; in light of the Saudi establishment's exploitation of judiciary lacking independence.

ANHRI demands the immediate release of Wajdi Al Ghazzawi and that all charges against him are dropped. Any form of persecution he currently faces must be halted and all other prisoners of conscience in Saudi jails must also be released.

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  • Saudi Arabia convicts TV presenter for critical show

    The 12-year prison sentence included a five-year term under Article 6 of the country's cybercrime law, which criminalizes the production of material impinging on public order and public morals, among other issues. The court also banned the host for life from appearing on media outlets and forbade him from leaving the country for 20 years. During the trial, al-Ghazzawi said his show was intended to educate Saudi citizens and repeated his belief that Al-Qaeda was a Saudi creation, according to news reports.

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