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RSF decries Saudi citizen-journalist’s jail term and writing ban

December 22, 2015

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the four-year jail sentence and 15-year writing ban that a Saudi court passed yesterday on writer and citizen-journalist Zuhair Kutbi as “unjust and disproportionate.”

A human rights defender and contributor to the Makkah Online website, Kutbi has been held since his arrest at his home on 15 July for calling for religious and political reforms and a constitutional monarchy in an interview for the Saudi-owned pan-Arab TV channel Rotana Khaleejia broadcast on 22 June.

As well as four years in prison (with two of them suspended) and a 15-year writing ban, Kutbi was also sentenced to a fine of 100,000 riyals and a five-year ban on international travel after his release.

“The sentence is an example of how dissidents are persecuted and intimidated in Saudi Arabia,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “This human rights activist is now in prison for advocating democratic reforms and for expressing views different from the regime’s. We call on the authorities to free him at once and to quash this conviction.”

Accused of insulting and criticizing the Saudi state and its symbols, and inciting chaos, Kutbi was tried before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh. Initially created in 2008 to handle terrorism-related cases, the court has above all been used to silence dissent.

Ten journalists and citizen-journalists are currently unjustly detained in Saudi Arabia, which is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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Reporters Without Borders
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