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Saudi Arabia court sentences rights activist to 8 years

A Saudi Arabian court on Monday sentenced human rights activist Abdulkarim al-Khader to eight years in prison for sedition. Abdulkarim al-Khader was one of the founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) [advocacy website in Arabic], which aimed to increase awareness of civil rights in the country. He was sentenced to prison [Reuters report] after the ACPRA campaigned for a constitutional monarchy and elections in the Gulf Arab kingdom, during his time as its leader. Three years of the sentence must be spent in jail, and for five years he may avoid imprisonment only if he suspends his activities. The same court sentenced two other human rights activists, also founders of the ACPRA, to 10 years in prison [JURIST report] in March. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has denounced the sentencing [press release] and demanded al-Khader's immediate release.

Saudi Arabia has been criticized for conducting unfair trials against human rights activists. A Saudi Arabian court in January convicted [JURIST report] prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer Ahmed el-Gezawi of smuggling drugs and sentenced him to five years imprisonment and 300 lashes. El-Gezawi's arrest sparked protests by those who believe the activist was arrested for insulting King Abdullah. In December Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged Saudi Arabia to drop apostasy charges [JURIST report] against a website editor who co-founded the religious discussion website Free Saudi Liberals, claiming that his arrest violated his right to freedom of expression. In August several international human rights groups sent a letter to the Saudi Ministry of Justice [official website, in Arabic] seeking to observe the trials of four rights activists [JURIST report] who faced charges of defaming the country's reputation, supporting international human rights groups and sparking demonstrations against the government.

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