Calling for political reform in Saudi Arabia is now considered terrorism, according to a new law which came into effect today.
The Council of Ministers headed by the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud passed on Monday [December 16] the Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing of Terrorism. The draft law receieved much criticism when it was leaked by Amnesty International (AI) in July 2011. Back then, AI commented:
If passed it would pave the way for even the smallest acts of peaceful dissent to be branded terrorism and risk massive human rights violations. [...] The definition of “terrorist crimes” in the draft is so broad that it lends itself to wide interpretation and abuse, and would in effect criminalize legitimate dissent.
Under the draft law, terrorist crimes would include such actions as “endangering…national unity”, “halting the basic law or some of its articles”, or “harming the reputation of the state or its position”.
More specifically, the draft law imposed a minimum of a five-year imprisonment for “anyone who promotes, verbally or by writing, terrorism acts, any subject that is against the political orientation of the Kingdom, any idea that hurts the national unity…”.
Back then, a spokesperson from the appointed Consultative Assembly told Reuters:
“The draft that was published is not the final one,” said Mohammed Almohanna, spokesman for the advisory parliament.
“It was discussed in a Shura Council session. It was a draft and some changes were made to it to ensure that the law is compatible with Sharia (Islamic law) and does not violate citizens’ rights or the country's existing laws,” he said
The final law is yet to be officially released.
On Twitter, a user named Sigh, comments [ar]:
تعريف الجريمة الإرهابية في قانون (نظام جرام الإرهاب وتمويله) المقر اليوم في #السعودية, يجعل محاولة الإصلاح السياسي إرهابًا.!!
— Sigh (@Sigh______) December 16, 2013
The definition of terrorism in the Law to Criminalise Terrorism and its Financing, which was approved today, makes attempting political reform in Saudi Arabia count as terrorism!!