[JURIST] Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) [Washington Institute backgrounder, PDF] in Riyadh on Monday handed down a seven-year sentence to a Saudi citizen as well as numerous other punitive measures for a Twitter post the court deemed insulting to the ruling Al Saud family [PBS backgrounder]. The SCC, which was established in 2008 to try cases linked to terrorist activity, concluded [PressTV report] that the defendant had a connection with two terror groups and was producing online materials that threatened the country’s security. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], which has been calling for the abolishment of the SCC since 2012 [HRW report], has previously commented on the SCC being increasingly used to silence peaceful dissenters and human rights activists.
Saudi Arabia has denied all allegations of arbitrary arrest, unfair detention, egregious prison conditions, and other human rights violations and has cited article 26 of the Kingdom’s Basic Law of Governance [text] as the sole legal recourse of the human rights prisoners. Saudi Arabia’s justice system has drawn international criticism for perceived human rights abuses in recent years. In January 2015 a Saudi Arabia judge sentenced prominent human rights lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair to an additional five years in jail [JURIST report] after he refused to show remorse for “showing disrespect” to authorities and creating an unauthorized association. In December 2014 a Saudi Arabia court ordered [JURIST report] the criminal cases against two women’s rights activists be transferred to a special tribunal for terrorism. The women were arrested for attempting to drive into the country from the UAE. In October 2014 a Saudi Arabia Court sentenced three lawyers to between five and eight years in prison for criticizing the justice system [JURIST report] on Twitter by accusing authorities of carrying out arbitrary detentions. Earlier that month Amnesty International issued a report claiming that Saudi Arabia persecutes rights activists and silences government critics [JURIST report], especially in the years since the Arab Spring in 2011. In July 2014 then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navy Pillay, expressed deep concern over the harsh sentences and detention of peaceful human rights advocates [JURIST report] in Saudi Arabia in recent months. In February 2014 JURIST Guest Columnist Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch argued that a new Saudi Arabian terrorism law was a vague, catch-all document [JURIST op-ed] that can—and probably will—be used to prosecute or jail anyone who criticizes the Saudi government and to violate their due process rights along the way.