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Three Saudi lawyers sentenced to jail for tweeting

This article was originally published on 27 October 2014.

On 27 October 2014, three lawyers were handed down sentences by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh ranging between five to eight years in prison on account of particular tweets shared on their personal Twitter accounts. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has denounced the verdict.

The first defendant, lawyer Abdel Rahman Al Subehi, was accused of encroaching on the rights of the ruler, interfering in his purview - as he had criticised Saudi's foreign policy in one of his tweets - and insulting the judiciary. Al Subehi's tweets were deemed by the court as prejudiced against Saudi Arabia's public order. He was therefore sentenced to eight years in prison and subjected to a 10-year travel ban after he completes his term. He has also been prevented from appearing on any media channels or using social networking.

The second defendant, lawyer Bander Al-Nakithan, was charged with insulting the judiciary and violating its sovereignty because of a tweet he had posted in which he accused one of the Riyadh courts of losing a file belonging to a case it was considering. The court sentenced him to 5 years in prison and a seven-year travel ban that starts following the completion of his sentence. He has been banned from appearing on television or using social networking sites as well.

Lawyer Abdel-Rahman Al-Remaih is the third defendant. He was also accused of insulting the judiciary and interfering with its preview as a result of a tweet he had posted on his personal Twitter account. In his tweet, Al-Remaih allegedly accused the Supreme Council of the Judiciary of overlooking the existence of corrupt judges while prosecuting the just ones. He also lashed out against the verdict handed down to Sheikh Nimr Bakr Al-Nimr, who was sentenced to death for his criticism of the Saudi regime, describing it as a harsh judgment. The court ordered his imprisonment for five years and banned him from traveling for seven years after that. He has also been banned from appearing on media channels and using social networking websites.

"Accusations of insulting the king and Saudi Arabian institutions is now being used by the regime to retaliate against its opponents in order to tighten its grip on the situation in the country and to gag all opposing voices," said ANHRI. "Charges of insulting the king have frighteningly been on the rise since 2011, particularly in the aftermath of an uprising in the eastern province of the country as of late."

ANHRI demands the urgent release of the three lawyers and for all unfair sentences against them to be dropped.

It also urges the groups concerned with freedom of expression and human rights to shed light on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.

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