Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Saudi authorities have sentenced an academic to four years in prison, for calling for political reform in the country. According to the lawyer and the son of Zuhair Kutbi, the man will have half of his sentence suspended. However, he is banned from writing any essay or article for the next 15 years. At the same time, he will not be able to travel abroad for the next five years and will have to pay a fine of 26 thousand dollars.
The reasons that led to the writer’s conviction have not yet been disclosed.
According to local sources, he was arrested last July after saying on TV that Saudi Arabia should become a constitutional monarchy.
The 62 year old Zuhair Kutbi is the latest in a series of human rights activists, reformists, journalists and dissidents to be jailed in the Gulf kingdom.
In the early '90s he was convicted three times to several months in prison and fines for having demanded political reform and criticizing prison conditions in Saudi Arabia.
In the past, the writer was forced to sign a statement promising not to discuss and explore issues of a public nature in the media (print and television) or social networks. Nevertheless, during a speech on satellite TV channel Rotana Khaleeja, on June 22, Kutbi spoke of "necessary reforms" for the country, including the "transformation" into a "constitutional monarchy" and the all-out struggle against " political and religious repression".
His comments have drawn considerable attention on social networks; this July 15 security officers arrested him, taking him from his home in Mecca. On August 10, the judges confirmed his arrest without formulating any charge, although he would have to answer for inciting subversion, insulting the judiciary and insult to the symbols of the State. Kutbi’s lawyer, Ibrahim al-Midaymiq, and his son Jameel confirmed last prison sentence in time in two different Tweets, without going into details.
Saudi Arabia is a Wahhabi Muslim nation ruled by an absolute monarchy. It is a conservative kingdom that denies equal rights to women and minorities and where religious freedom is also denied. In recent months there have been articles and reports of human rights violations carried out by Riyadh which are however censored (by governments or international networks) so as not to undermine relations with a nation rich in oil and money to invest.