Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday that a Saudi court sentenced a Sudanese journalist to four years in prison for critical social media posts against the monarchy, according to Reuters.
Ahmed Ali Abdelkader, a 31-year-old media personality and journalist, was sentenced to prison for “insulting the state’s institutions and symbols, negatively speaking about the Kingdom’s policy… and speaking on media platforms loyal to hostile parties to the Kingdom in a way that is harmful to the Kingdom,” and other offenses.
The charges stem from comments and media interviews he posted on Twitter criticizing Saudi Arabia’s conduct in Sudan and Yemen and expressing support for Sudan’s 2018-2019 revolution.
“This and other similar prosecutions demonstrate just how determined Saudi authorities are to stamp out even the most minor criticism or questioning on social media and deter all dissent under threat of long prison sentences,” deputy Middle East director at HRW, Michael Page told.
A request for a response from the Saudi government’s media office was not returned.
Abdelkader was detained on April 19 at Jeddah airport and held for 20 days at a police station before being transferred to the al-Shumaisi prison center outside Mecca, according to HRW. During his detention, he was interrogated twice and charged with anti-Saudi conduct on Twitter, according to HRW, citing a source.
According to HRW, Abdelkader was refused access to a lawyer, including legal representation during trial, which consisted of two brief sessions during which he was not able to defend himself.
HRW examined the substance of the referenced social media postings and “determined that none of them incited violence, hatred or discrimination.” Several tweets mentioned Saudi-Sudanese ties, including one in July 2018 in which Abdelkader accused Saudi media of targeting Sudan and accusing Saudi Arabia of funding ISIS.