RIYADHI : A Saudi judge sentenced a political activist to 300 lashes and four years in prison for calling for a constitutional monarchy in Saudi Arabia, his rights group said on Sunday. Omar al-Saeed is the fourth member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) to be jailed this year after the group issued statements attacking the ruling family over its human rights record and calling for democracy.
Saeed did not have legal representation at the secret hearing when he was sentenced, ACPRA said in a statement on its website. “It’s just another troubling instance of Saudi authorities’ absolute refusal to countenance any activism or criticism of Saudi policies or human rights abuses,” said Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. A spokesman for the Justice Ministry said he could not comment on the report or confirm its accuracy.
King Abdullah is the prime minister and he appoints the government, which includes top princes in the roles of foreign, interior, defense and intelligence ministers. Most senior princes also have extensive business interests. Saudi Arabia’s only elections are for half the seats on relatively powerless town councils. Licensed media exercises stringent self censorship, public expressions of dissent are often not tolerated and demonstrations are banned.