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Saudi rights activists given heavy jail terms

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A Saudi court on Saturday dissolved a human rights group and handed down heavy jail terms to two of its members, an AFP correspondent reported.

The judge at the criminal court in Riyadh, in delivering his verdict ordered "the dissolution of the Saudi Association of Civil and Political Rights (ACPRA), for failing to obtain authorisation, and the seizure of its assets."

He also upheld a six-year prison term for one the group's members, Abdullah al-Hamed, by a court of first instance, while also handing him a new five-year sentence and an 11-year travel ban to come into force when he leaves jail.

Another rights activist with the ACPRA, Mohammed Gahtani, was jailed for 10 years and banned from travelling for 10 years.

The defendants were convicted of violating a law on cybercriminality by using Twitter to denounce various aspects of political and social life in the ultra-conservative kingdom. They have 30 days to appeal.

The two men reacted calmly to the verdict, saying they planned to continue their "peaceful struggle."

Gahtani said in June last year that he had been accused, under the law on cybercriminality, of "spreading sedition" and "rebelling against the authority" of the king.

The Saudi rights group claims to have created a file listing "hundreds of human rights violations over the past two years," and has helped victims seeking justice.

It says the kingdom is holding around 30,000 political prisoners.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130309/saudi-rights-activists-given-heavy-jail-terms