October 20, 2015 / 10:49 AM / 2 years ago

Saudi rights activists sentenced to years in prison - Amnesty

RIYADH (Reuters) - A terrorism tribunal in Saudi Arabia, which was elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2013, has sentenced two political activists to decade-long prison terms for establishing a rights organisation, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Abdulkareem al-Khoder, one of 11 founding members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), was sentenced to 10 years in prison under a year-old counter-terrorism law, London-based Amnesty said.

On Wednesday, another ACPRA member, Abdulrahman al-Hamid, was given nine years in prison followed by a nine-year travel ban, it said. His brother Issa al-Hamid was due to be sentenced the same week, but the court session was postponed to November.

The sentences dealt a further blow to civil rights activism in Saudi Arabia that has been targeted by a sweeping security crackdown since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. All 11 of ACPRA’s founding members are either jailed or awaiting trial.

“The outrageous convictions of ACPRA members for their human rights activism, coming on top of Saudi Arabia’s already appalling human rights record, makes a further mockery of its obligations as a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council,” said James Lynch, Middle East director at Amnesty.

A Saudi judiciary spokesman was not immediately available for comment. The Interior Ministry has previously said ACPRA’s involvement in a string of protests against what it called extrajudicial imprisonment of suspected militants had led to attacks in the kingdom.

Al-Khoder, a former professor of Islamic jurisprudence, was previously sentenced to eight years in prison in 2013 by a criminal court for offences including “disobeying the ruler” and “taking part in founding an unlicensed organization”.

His conviction comes amid a flurry of activity by the Saudi Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), a tribunal established in 2008 to try terrorism cases, but often used for political offences.

The SCC recently reopened its case against ACPRA’s youngest member, Omar al-Sa’id, who likewise was sentenced in 2013 to four years imprisonment and 200 lashes.

Last Tuesday, the court sentenced another activist, Abdulaziz Abdulatif Alsonaidi, to eight years in prison and a travel ban, according to the Canada-based Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. Alsonaidi was charged with signing an ACPRA petition and writing tweets critical of the king, the group said in a statement.

Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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