Saudi upholds eight-year jail term for tweeter

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A Saudi Arabian appeals court has upheld an eight-year jail term given to a man for posting defamatory Twitter posts, according to state media.

The court blocked his Twitter account and banned him from writing posts on social networking sites under any name, the Saudi Press Agency said.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Fahd Abdullah Al Bakran said the Saudi was accused of inciting relatives of people detained for security reasons to stage demonstrations and sit-ins by posting tweets and video clips on YouTube.

Al Bakran said the man was also convicted of posting tweets mocking the kingdom’s ruler, its religious establishment and the judiciary, SPA reported.

He resisted arrest twice and tried to escape, crashing his vehicle into a patrol car, Al Bakran said.

The man also destroyed his mobile phone SIM when he was finally arrested.

Twitter is highly popular with Saudis and has stirred broad debate on subjects ranging from religion to politics in a country where such public discussion had been considered at best unseemly and sometimes illegal.

Last year a global study by GlobalWebIndex found most internet users in Saudi, the most populous country in the Gulf, use the micro-blogging website.

Of the kingdom's total internet users, about 51 percent are active on Twitter, followed by Turkey in second place with 39 percent and by the UAE in third place at 34 percent.

It emerged last year that Saudi Arabia may try to end anonymity for Twitter users in the country by limiting access to the site to people who register their identification documents.

Local media reported the government had asked telecom companies to look at ways they could monitor, or block, free internet phone services such as Skype.

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