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Saudi court sentences preacher to 4 years' imprisonment for visiting book fair

Palestinians visit the Rashad Al Shawwa Cultural Center during "Gazzetu Hashim" book fair, which was opened in despite of limited conditions due to Israeli blockade, in Gaza City, Gaza on 14 April 2019. More than 10 establishment and publishing houses participated in the fair [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians visit the Rashad Al Shawwa Cultural Center during "Gazzetu Hashim" book fair, which was opened in despite of limited conditions due to Israeli blockade, in Gaza City, Gaza on 14 April 2019. More than 10 establishment and publishing houses participated in the fair [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

A Saudi court has sentenced preacher Yousef Al-Ahmad, who has been detained since September 2017, to four years in prison.

The ruling also included a travel ban for four years following the preacher's release from prison.

The Prisoners of Conscience Twitter account disclosed: "The Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh issued a four-year imprisonment sentence against Sheikh Yousef Al-Ahmad, followed by a four-year travel ban based on flimsy charges, including a visit to a book fair, participating in Fahd Al-Sunaidi's 140 program, and past visits to prisoners of conscience."

Sheikh Al-Ahmad was arrested in 2011, after appearing in a video calling on the authorities to resolve the file of political detainees, after which he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment on charges of "inciting against the ruler", "harming national cohesion" and "undermining the prestige of the state."

READ: Biden official slams Saudi jail sentence against rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul

Al-Ahmad was granted a royal pardon after one year and was arrested again in the infamous arrest campaign targeting preachers and intellectuals in September 2017.

The preacher holds a PhD in jurisprudence and worked as a professor at Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University Islamic in Riyadh.

According to observers, there are several reasons behind the arrest campaign launched by the authorities against Saudi preachers and scholars. The most prominent of which is the refusal of many intellectuals to abide by the royal court's orders on attacking Qatar, and Mohammed Bin Salman's attempt to crush internal opposition to his inauguration as king, which is being hastily arranged.

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