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Amnesty slams Saudi Arabia over sentence given to activist

Amnesty International has slammed Saudi Arabia’s decision to sentence activist Fowzan al-Harbi to prison on “spurious” charges.

In a statement, Amnesty’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program Said Boumedouha urged Riyadh to quash the seven-year jail term given to al-Harbi.

“Harbi has been ruthlessly targeted for daring to question the Saudi authorities’ human rights record,” said Boumedouha.

The statement came after a court in Riyadh handed down the sentence to the 36-year-old activist on June 24 and also banned him from travelling for a further seven years.

The court convicted Harbi on several charges, including “breaking allegiance” with the ruler.

Harbi was primarily imprisoned last December after a judge ordered his arrest without providing a reason, according to Amnesty. He was freed on June 23, a day before his conviction, and is now free awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

The activist, a founder of the local Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), is also accused of describing Saudi Arabia as a “police state” and “accusing the judiciary of being incapable of delivering justice” and “ignoring judicial decisions” ordering the dissolution of ACPRA.

The co-founders of ACPRA, Abdullah al-Hamid and Mohammad al-Qahtani, were imprisoned for 10 and 11 years respectively in March 2013.

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

Last October, 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 (UN), which included information regarding a “new wave of repression against civil society, which has taken place over the last two years.”

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