Middle East

Saudi Arabia 'jails reformist writer Zuhair Kutbi'

Zuhair Kutbi is interviewed by the pan-Arab satellite TV channel Rotana Khaleejia on 22 June 2015 Image copyright Rotana Khaleejia
Image caption Zuhair Kutbi's appearance on Rotana Khaleejia gained considerable attention on social media

A Saudi writer who has called for political reform is reported to have been sentenced to four years in prison.

Zuhair Kutbi's lawyer and son said half the sentence was suspended, but that he was also banned from writing for 15 years and travelling abroad for five, and fined $26,600 (£17,900).

It is not clear on what charges Mr Kutbi was found guilty.

He is believed to have been detained in July after saying Saudi Arabia should become a constitutional monarchy on TV.

The 62-year-old is the latest in a string of human rights activists, reformists, journalists, and dissidents to have been jailed in the Gulf state.

'Necessary reforms'

Before Monday, Mr Kutbi had been sentenced to months in prison and fined at least three times since the 1990s for calling for reforms and criticising prison conditions in Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International.

He had also reportedly been made to sign a pledge not to discuss public issues with the written or broadcast media, or on his social media accounts.

However, during an appearance on the satellite TV channel Rotana Khaleejia on 22 June, Mr Kutbi spoke about "what he regarded as necessary reforms in Saudi Arabia, including transforming the country into a constitutional monarchy and combating religious and political repression", Human Rights Watch said.

The comments attracted considerable attention on social media, and on 15 July security officers arrested Mr Kutbi at his home in the city of Mecca.

On 10 August, HRW said Mr Kutbi was being held without charge, but that investigators had suggested to members of his family that he might face trial for inciting public opinion, insulting the judiciary, or offending symbols of the state.

Mr Kutbi's lawyer, Ibrahim al-Midaymiq, and his son Jameel confirmed his latest prison sentence in separate posts on Twitter on Monday, but gave no other details.

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