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Saudi court upholds five-year jail sentence for well-known writer

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by a Riyadh court's decision to uphold the five-year jail sentence that Mukhlif Al-Shammari, a well-known writer and activist, received last June for the articles he has written and, in particular, for a video he posted on YouTube in which two girls described being mistreated.

The sentence was imposed on 17 June 2013 by a Jeddah court that specializes in national security and terrorism cases and was upheld by a Riyadh criminal court on 4 March. Shammari has said he will appeal against the latest decision.

Shammari stands convicted of trying to discredit the reputation of kingdom in the eyes of domestic and international public opinion, insulting the clergy and inciting divisions within the people.

As well as five years in prison, the sentence includes a ban on writing for newspapers or websites or appearing in the media, and a ten-year ban on travelling abroad.

“The Saudi authorities are trying by every means possible to silence the few people who dare to speak out and criticize the regime's failings,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“This sentence is striking example of the zero tolerance policy applied to those regarded as dissidents. We call on the authorities to overturn this decision and to abandon all proceedings against Shammari.”

Shammari has been the target of previous prosecutions and was arrested on 15 June 2010 for articles posted on the Saudiyoon and Rasid news websites criticizing political and religious leaders.

Saudi Arabia is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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