Saudi Arabia has come under criticism for sentencing internet activists from the country’s Eastern Province to up to 10 years in prison.On June 24, a Saudi court sentenced seven cyber activists to long prison terms from five to 10 years after accusing them of calling for anti - government protests on social media networks. A Saudi - based human rights campaigner speaking on the condition of anonymity pointed out that all the activists were Shias from the al - Ahsa governorate.
" The sectarian situation in the region made the sentences tough and unreasonable, " the human rights campaigner said.On Sunday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch also slammed the convictions and called on the European Union to condemn the heavy sentences handed down to internet activists, as well. The rights group said the EU failure to raise the issue and its silence over the matter "will look like craven compliance with the rights abuses of an authoritarian state." The recent call was made ahead of a meeting in the Bahraini capital, Manama, where EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton is chairing a joint EU - (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC] session aimed at discussing ways to boost ties between the two sides, later on Sunday. More than 40,000 political prisoners, mostly prisoners of conscience, are in jails across Saudi Arabia. According to the activists, most of the detained political thinkers are being held by the government without trial or legitimate charges and have been arrested for merely looking suspicious. In Saudi Arabia, protests and political gatherings of any kind are prohibited. Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in Qatif and Awamiyah, primarily calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination.