DUBAI (Reuters) - A court in Saudi Arabia has convicted two Saudi citizens of trying to organise mass protests in 2011 inspired by Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and sentenced them to three and four years in jail, local media reported on Thursday.
A clampdown at the time prevented calls issued on social media for mass gatherings in the capital Riyadh, although some small protests by minority Shi‘ite Muslims were dispersed by security forces with gunshots fired in the air.
The late King Abdullah also ordered an aid package worth billions of dollars for Saudis in an apparent bid to insulate the world’s top oil exporter from the protests.
The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper reported that the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh had found the two unnamed defendants guilty of “heeding the calls of (the) ideologically deviant to cause chaos and participate in demonstrations billed as the ‘Hunayn Revolution’” of March 11, 2011.
The two were sentenced to three and four years in jail and were banned from travelling abroad for four years starting from their release.
The court cleared a third suspect of any charges for lack of evidence, the newspaper reported.
Other Saudi newspapers carried similar reports.
The newspapers gave no details on when the suspects were detained and if they have already completed their sentences.
Saudi judges have extensive scope to impose sentences according to their own interpretation of Sharia law without reference to any previous cases. After a case has been heard by lower courts, appeals courts and the supreme court, a convicted defendant can be pardoned by King Salman.
The Saudi Justice ministry did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Catherine Evans