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Saudi Netflix present creator says convicted by anti-terrorism court docket

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Saudi TV creator Abdulaziz Almuzaini, whose animated Netflix present has made waves for breaking social taboos, stated he had been convicted by an anti-terrorism court docket, prompting condemnation from rights advocates.

The kingdom’s Specialised Criminal Court, established in 2008 to strive suspects accused of terrorism, “issued against me (a sentence of) 13 years, followed by a 13-year travel ban”, Mr. Almuzaini stated in a video posted on-line final week that was subsequently deleted.

In a second video posted this week, which remains to be out there on social media platform X, Mr. Almuzaini filmed himself inside a automobile, saying: “I am banned from travelling” out of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi officers didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark from AFP on Thursday, and there was no phrase of Mr. Almuzaini — who was not out there for remark — having been incarcerated.

His satirical present “Masameer County”, billed as “a humorous view on a changing Saudi”, debuted in 2021.

Episodes tackled subjects akin to disputes amongst tribes and Islamic militancy, and even featured indirect references to homosexuality, a possible capital crime in Saudi Arabia.

The Wall Street Journal on July 4 reported that court docket paperwork within the case referred to on-line posts by Almuzaini which “ridiculed Arab regimes… or voiced support for women’s rights”.

Mr. Almuzaini stated within the since-deleted video that the court docket accused him of selling homosexuality and militancy.

He additionally stated that, amid mounting stress from Saudi authorities, he was pressured to shut his firm, Myrkott Animation Studio.

“The services of all the employees of the Myrkott company were terminated a week ago,” he stated.

“Those are people who have families, people who have worked with us since 2012. I had to stand up and apologise to them all and announce to them that Myrkott had ended.”

Appeal to the prince

The video included a direct attraction to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who grew to become first in line to the throne in 2017 and has overseen sweeping social and financial reforms.

“I believe that we are in a country ruled by a rational family, and if one of its citizens is subjected to injustice, I have faith that my voice reaching His Highness the Crown Prince will correct some of what happened to me,” Mr. Almuzaini stated.

Saudi Arabia has been criticised for what activists describe as a fierce crackdown on even vaguely essential on-line speech.

In the previous two years the Saudi judiciary has “convicted and handed down lengthy prison terms on dozens of individuals for their expression on social media”, human rights teams Amnesty International and ALQST stated in April.

Saudi officers say the accused had dedicated terrorism-related offences.

High-profile examples embrace two ladies who obtained decades-long sentences in 2022 for posting and sharing essential on-line posts, in addition to a retired instructor who final 12 months was sentenced to demise after denouncing alleged corruption and human rights abuses on social media.

Prince Mohammed in a September interview with Fox News stated he disapproved of that judgement and raised the likelihood that the retired instructor, Mohammed al-Ghamdi, could be spared demise.

Unlike in these circumstances, Mr. Almuzaini doesn’t appear to have been jailed.

The proceedings in opposition to him nonetheless appeared to proceed a development of shutting down free speech, stated Abdullah Alaoudh, senior director for countering authoritarianism on the U.S.-based Middle East Democracy Center.

“Saudi Arabia’s creative industries will not thrive — let alone attract investment — until the authorities recognise and fully respect the human rights of all its citizens,” Mr. Alaoudh stated.

Lina al-Hathloul, head of monitoring and communication for ALQST, denounced the imposition of a journey ban, as was the case along with her sister, outstanding ladies’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul.

“We all would like to live in the country, but in safety and without these violations and the arbitrary and unjustified travel ban that has exhausted many, including my family,” the London-based Lina al-Hathloul stated on X.

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