Saudi upholds eight-year jail term for tweeter

Man also convicted of posting tweets mocking kingdom’s ruler, religious establishment and judiciary
By Beatrice Thomas
Mon 10 Mar 2014 09:56 AM

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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