Long Sentences For Saudi Reformers

Christie Vaughn with her adopted son Grayson. Christie and her husband Jason may have to return Grayson to his biological father. CBS

A Saudi court on Sunday sentenced three reform advocates to jail terms of up to nine years, prompting a human rights activist to call the trial a "farce" and describe the sentences as too harsh.

The trial, which began last year, was seen as a response by the country's authoritarian rulers to the modest pro-reform movement's attempts to encourage political openness.

The three reform campaigners were found guilty of sowing dissent, disobeying their rulers and sedition, said their lawyer, Sheik Ibrahim al-Mubarak. Ali al-Dimeeni was sentenced to nine years, Abdullah al-Hamed to seven years and Matrouk al-Faleh to six years.

"The sentences were very surprising to us. They were unexpected, considering that all they did was offer advice, a point of view," al-Mubarak said, adding that the defense team will be appealing the verdict in 10 days. He said time already served would be included in the sentences.

A human rights activist who tried to attend the session but was reportedly prevented by police criticized the proceedings of the trial and the verdict.

"The sentences are too harsh and they are very unfortunate. There is no logic behind them," said Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb, who heads an independent Saudi rights group, Human Rights First. "This is a farce."

Al-Mugaiteeb complained about mistreatment by security forces.

"I was taken by ambulance to the hospital because policemen were harsh and impatient," al-Mugaiteeb said from his hospital bed after collapsing outside the court building.
  • Chris Hawke