HRW said that Saudi Arabia stepped up arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of peaceful dissident writers and human rights advocates in 2017.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Saudi Arabia stepped up arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of peaceful dissident writers and human rights advocates in 2017, the US-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a press release.

“Saudi Arabia is trying to silence and lock away anyone who doesn’t toe the official line or dares to express an independent view on politics, religion, or human rights,” HRW Middle East Director Sarah Whitson stated in the release on Monday.

In January, a Saudi court sentenced two prominent activists to long jail terms, accusing them of being in contact with international media and human rights organizations. The authorities jailed two others, one of whom remains in detention while under investigation.

“When will the Saudi authorities understand that talking to the media or an international organization should not be a crime,” Whitson noted.

The release explained that Saudi courts have convicted at least 20 prominent activists and dissidents since 2011, with many receiving sentences of 10 years or more on vague charges such as breaking allegiance with the ruler.

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