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Court issues sentences against two opposition activists from Saudi Arabia's eastern province

During a hearing on 6 May 2014, a Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh handed down sentences to two activists from Al-Qatif, a governorate in Eastern Province, leading the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) to denounce the harsh verdicts that happen to be the latest in a string of court cases against anti-government activists.

Sheikh Mohammed Jalal Al-Jamal, one of the most prominent social and cultural activists in the Awwamiyya town of Al-Qatif where he works as a teacher, was sentenced to five years in jail and a 50,000 Saudi Riyals ($US 13,331) fine. Al-Jamal was detained on 25 February 2012 and accused by the authorities of managing a website that incites protests against the Saudi regime during the Eastern Province's uprising. He was kept in detention for more than a year before being released on 5 March 2013. Thereafter, a lawsuit was brought against him over the same charges leading to his sentencing.

Another activist, Ali Gaseb Althifah, was sentenced to six years in jail and a fine of 50,000 Saudi Riyals ($US 13,331). He was detained in August 2012 as a result of his participation in protests that had been taking place in the northern region of the country at the time.

"These sentences form a new cycle of harsh rulings issued by the Saudi judiciary against dissidents and opposition activists," said ANHRI, "It conveys the authorities' insistence on throwing their opponents in jail as well as a lack of political will on the part of the state to reform its human rights record."

"The state should drop these unfair verdicts against the Eastern Province's activists and set them free. It must also find and create an appropriate formula for dialogue with the political opposition, rather than giving priority to security options in facing the opposition's demands," ANHRI added.

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