The outrageous eight year prison sentence against a Shi’a cleric in Saudi Arabia for criticizing its leaders is the latest example of a disturbing pattern of harassment and discrimination against the country’s Shi’a community, said Amnesty International.
Sheikh Tawfiq al-`Amr, a Shi’a cleric in the al-Ahsa governorate, was sentenced to eight years in prison, followed by a 10-year travel ban, and barred from delivering religious sermons.
He was yesterday convicted by the Specialized Criminal Court on charges of defaming Saudi Arabia’s ruling system, ridiculing the mentality of its religious leaders, inciting sectarianism, calling for change and disobeying the ruler. The charges are in connection to a number of public speeches he has delivered since 2011.
“Sheikh Tawfiq al-`Amr is the latest Shi’a cleric to pay a very high price for refusing to be silenced,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.