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Saudi Arabia jails two activists for 10 years

RIYADH -- A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced two prominent political and human rights activists to at least 10 years in prison for offenses that included sedition and giving inaccurate information to foreign media.

Mohammed Fahd al-Qahtani and Abdullah Hamad are founding members of the banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, known as Acpra, that documents human rights abuses.

Qahtani was sentenced to 10 years. Hamad was told he must complete the remaining six years of a previous jail term for his political activities and serve an additional five years.

They will remain in detention until a judge rules on their appeal next month.

Saturday's trial was open to the press and public, in what Saudi activists had described as a step forward for rights even as they decried the verdict.


More than 100 people attended the hearing on Saturday morning, mostly supporters and relatives of the defendants. More than 20 security officers were also present in the room, prompting a protest from the defendants' lawyer. 

Politically motivated?
Acpra will also be disbanded and its funds confiscated, the judge ruled.

Last year, a court in Jeddah sentenced Acpra member Mohammad al-Bajadi to four years in prison. Another of the group's founders, Abdulkarim al-Khathar is on trial in Buraidah.

After the verdict, the police cleared the public from the court room as supporters of Qahtani and Hamad shouted that the trial was politically motivated.

On Thursday, an Interior Ministry spokesman said that activists, whom he did not name, had tried to stir up protests in the world's top oil exporting country by spreading "false information" on social media.

Qahtani said in January he had never been to prison but thought he was "psychologically ready" for it, and that his family, who are in the United States where his wife is attending university, were also prepared.

Reuters contributed to this report.