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Tue 22 Dec 2015 11:34 AM

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Saudi writer jailed for reformist comments

Zuhair Kutbi called for the kingdom to become a constitutional monarchy during a TV appearance on Prince Alwaleed’s Rotana network

Saudi writer jailed for reformist comments

A Saudi writer who publicly called for the kingdom to become a constitutional monarchy has been sentenced to four years in jail, according to the BBC.

Zuhair Kutbi’s lawyer and son said on Twitter that half the sentence was suspended, but he was also banned from writing for 15 years, travelling abroad for five, and fined $26,600.

He also was made to sign a pledge not to discuss public issues with written or broadcast media, or on his social media accounts.

The 62-year-old’s sentence is in relation to comments he made on satellite TV channel Rotana Khaleejia, owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, on June 22. Human Rights Watch said he spoke about, "what he regarded as necessary reforms in Saudi Arabia, including transforming the country into a constitutional monarchy and combating religious and political repression”.

The comments attracted considerable attention on social media, leading to his arrest on July 15.

Kutbi is among dozens of human rights activists, reformists, journalists and dissidents who have been jailed in the kingdom.

He had already been sentenced to various prison terms and fined at least three times since the 1990s for calling for reforms and criticising prison conditions in Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International.

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