Al-Salam, manager of the critical news website Al-Fajr Cultural Network, is serving a six-year prison jail after his original sentence was increased on appeal by the Specialized Criminal Court, according to reports.
Security forces arrested al-Salam in the city of Jubail in February 2012 in connection with the site’s coverage of pro-reform protests in Eastern province, news outlets reported. Another site manager, Habib al-Maatiq, was arrested the previous day. The website posts videos from Shia leaders including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, as well as Saudi sheikhs.
According to a court indictment, the two were charged under Article 6 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law, which prohibits the production, storage, and transmission of material on information networks that disturbs public order, as well as establishing a website without a license.
On December 23, 2013 al-Maatiq was sentenced to one year in prison for establishing a website without a license, and al-Salam to three years, news reports said. Two other individuals who were accused of contributing to Al-Fajr and social media outlets were also sentenced: a teacher, Reda al-Baharna, to one year, and an engineer, Montazer al-Aqili, to five years.
On March 4, 2014, news reports said the Specialized Criminal Court increased sentences on appeal to two years for al-Maatiq and five years for al-Salam, according to news reports. The sentence for al-Baharna was increased to three and a half years and for al-Aqili to seven. In a final appeal in June, al-Salam’s sentence was increased again to six years and al-Aqili’s to eight, news reports said.
Al-Maatiq was released on August 5, 2014, after completing his sentence, according to news reports. The director of the independent rights group, European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Ali Adubisi, told CPJ that al-Salam was being held at the General Intelligence Prison in the city of Dammam.
The kingdom obstructed coverage of Eastern province protests, which called for political reforms and greater rights for the country’s Shia minority, CPJ research shows. In the absence of independent reporting, coverage of the unrest was carried out by websites such as Al-Fajr Cultural Network.
An employee at Al-Fajr Cultural Network, who asked to remain anonymous for reasons of security, told CPJ in September 2017 that al-Salam’s sentence was extended for another year without justification, but that he was due to be released within the next three months.