7 imprisoned for Facebook posts

June 30, 2013 at 4:30 PM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, June 30 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia has sentenced seven government critics to prison for inciting protests and harming public order through Facebook, court officials said.

The Specialized Criminal Court sentenced the men Monday to prison terms ranging from five to 10 years in prison.

Human Rights Watch said The European's High Representative Catherin Ashton and its member states should condemn the convictions while meeting with Saudi Arabian officials at a meeting Sunday.

"Sending people off to years in prison for peaceful Facebook posts sends a strong message that there's no safe way to speak out in Saudi Arabia, even on online social networks," Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said.

Saudi officials arrested the men in September 2011 and detained them for a year and a half before charging and trying them in April 2013, Human Rights Watch said.

The Specialized Criminal Court convicted the men of joining Facebook to incite protests, gather information illegally and to break allegiance with the king, among other laws.

Abd al-Hamid al-Amer received the longest sentence of 10 years. The other defendants were: Ali Ali al-Hadlaq, Hussein Mohammed al-Bathir, Mostafa Hussein al-Mujahad, Mohammed Abd a-Hadi al-Khalifa, Hussein Yasin al-Sulayman and Saleh Ali al-Shaya.

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