London: Saudi Arabian court has reportedly sentenced seven men five to ten years in prison on charges of inciting protests by using Facebook.
According to BBC, the men were arrested in September last year but their trial began this year in April and they were charged for posting online messages to encourage protests, although they were not accused of directly taking part in demonstrations.
The report said that the men admitted contributing to Facebook pages supporting the leading Shia cleric Tawfiq al-Amer, who was held in February 2011 after calling for a constitutional monarchy and the maximum sentence of ten years in prison was given to an activist who set up two Facebook groups allegedly explaining the best protest techniques.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the men were charged for inciting protests and harming public order adding that several of the defendants said that they had been tortured into signing confessions.
The trial was heard in an anti-terrorism court which has barred the men from travelling for additional periods.
HRW`s deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork said that sending people off to years in prison for peaceful Facebook posts sends a strong message that there`s no safe way to speak out in Saudi Arabia, even on online social networks.
The HRW has urged the European Union to condemn the latest convictions ahead of a meeting with the Gulf leaders, the report added.