A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a Shia Muslim eulogist to nine months in prison as the Riyadh regime continues its heavy-handed crackdown on members of the religious community in the kingdom.
The London-based and Arabic-language Nabaa television network reported that the so-called Criminal Court in the city of Dammam, located about 400 kilometers (248 miles) east of Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh, passed the ruling on Muhammad Boujabara for practicing religious rites.
The same court also slapped four-month prison sentences against five other defendants.
On October 4 last year, Saudi regime forces arrested Boujabara and eight other Saudi citizens in the al-Asfar neighborhood of the Shia-populated region of al-Ahsa, in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province as they were commemorating Arba’een, the 40th day after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia Imam.
Meanwhile, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) has denounced the prison sentence handed down to the Saudi Shia Muslim eulogist and his associates, voicing concerns about the dire situation of religious freedom and spread of extremism in the kingdom.
ESOHR slammed their arbitrary arrest, and said their imprisonment on charges of exercising religious rites violates international law.
Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners, in particular in Eastern Province.
The province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.
In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.