Saudi Arabia jails 10 Egyptians for gathering: relatives
A Saudi judge on Monday sentenced 10 Egyptian men for up to 18 years for having tried to organise a remembrance event for the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, two relatives told AFP.
The men, from Egypt’s Nubian minority group, were found guilty of establishing a “terrorist group”, one of the relatives said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The Egyptian men were first arrested in October 2019 for trying to organise the remembrance event, similar versions of which had taken place in previous years without incident.
They were released without charge in December 2019, then re-arrested the following July.
“I have intense anger at the extreme injustice to which our people have been subjected,” the relative said.
One man received an 18-year sentence, one was jailed for 16 years, two for 14 years and the remainder for between 10 and 12 years, the relative said.
Rights groups including Amnesty International have previously campaigned for the men’s release.
In a statement last year, Amnesty denounced the proceedings against them as a “travesty” of justice.
The rights group said the men were being prosecuted “for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression in trying to organise a community event”.
The statement said the men had been “denied regular family contact and only allowed access to government-appointed lawyers”, and that “at least two of them are elderly and in ill health”.
Three of the men are over 60 years old, the relative told AFP on Monday.
According to Amnesty, Saudi security officials criticised them at the time “for failing to include a photo of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the event’s announcement poster”.
– ‘Harsh’ ruling –
In a Twitter post Monday, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, a prominent human rights group, described Monday’s sentences as “harsh”.
Democracy for the Arab World Now, a US-based advocacy organisation, said they were “unfair”.
The verdicts come as human rights activists and Saudi dissidents condemn what they describe as mounting repression of political expression in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy which does not allow protests or political opposition.
In recent weeks two Saudi women have received decades-long sentences apparently for tweeting and retweeting posts critical of the government.
A court document seen by AFP last month said one of the women was sentenced for using Twitter to “challenge” the kingdom’s powerful de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi officials have not commented on those cases, and they could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday about the sentences handed down to the Egyptians.
Nubians are a minority group in Egypt and Sudan who have long complained of historic marginalisation and discrimination.
Although there are no official figures for today’s Nubian community, advocacy groups estimate its number to be three or four million, out of Egypt’s 100-million population.
In early 2020, a coalition of 40 Nubian associations was created in Riyadh to demand that Sisi facilitate their return to their ancestral land, Amnesty said.