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Five Shias sentenced to prison in Saudi Arabia

Saudi-prisonSaudi Arabia has sentenced several Shia Muslims to prison over what officials call “insulting the country’s national flag.”

A court in the Saudi kingdom gave the young Shias from the restive Eastern Province lengthy jail terms on Tuesday.

Five of them were given three to six years in jail for removing the Saudi flag from the top of a school building and replacing it with a flag reading “The Kingdom of Qatif of Tomorrow.”

Earlier this month, the kingdom sentenced 26 people to death on such charges as giving speeches critical of the Al Saud regime and participating in protests against the ruling family.

International rights organizations say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly in defiance of international criticism.

Protests against the Al Saud family have intensified since November 2011, when security forces opened fire on protesters in Qatif in Eastern Province, killing five people and leaving scores more injured.

Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

Last October, rights group Amnesty International censured Saudi authorities for not addressing the “dire human rights situation” in the kingdom.

The group also handed in a paper to the United Nations, which included information regarding a “new wave of repression against civil society… taken place over the last two years.”

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