Saudi jails two over 2011 protests

A court in Saudi Arabia has convicted two Saudi citizens of trying to organise mass protests in 2011 inspired by Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and sentenced them to three and four years in jail, local media reported today.

A clampdown at the time prevented calls issued on social media for mass gatherings in the capital Riyadh, although some small protests by minority Shia Muslims were dispersed by security forces with gunshots fired in the air.

The late King Abdullah also ordered an aid package worth billions of dollars for Saudis in an apparent bid to insulate the country from the protests.

The Arabic-language Al-Watan newspaper reported that the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh had found the two unnamed defendants guilty of “heeding the calls of [the] ideologically deviant to cause chaos and participate in demonstrations” of 11 March 2011.

The two were sentenced to three and four years in jail and were banned from travelling abroad for four years starting from their release.

The court cleared a third suspect of any charges for lack of evidence, the newspaper reported.

The newspapers gave no details on when the suspects were detained and if they have already completed their sentences.

The Saudi Justice ministry did not respond to a request for comment.