Twitter: Saudi cleric was banned

A Saudi Islamic leader with more than two million Twitter followers has been banned from using the social media platform by a court which convicted him of jeopardising public order.

Awad Al Qarni, previously accused of links to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, was also fined 100,000 riyals ($27,000, Dh97,886), the Okaz newspaper reported on its website late on Thursday.

It did not name the “famous preacher” but Al Qarni himself confirmed the verdict on his @awadalqarni Twitter account late on Thursday.

“I am prevented from writing” on the account, he wrote, before issuing a Twitter message early on Friday thanking his followers.

Al Qarni was “one of the key clerics of the Sahwa movement,” British scholar Toby Matthieson has written.

The Sahwa emerged in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s and 70s, its founders being exiled members of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to another expert, Stephane Lacroix.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE have all declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a “terrorist group”.

Okaz said Riyadh’s Specialised Criminal Court, which handles “terrorism” cases, convicted the preacher on Thursday of spreading content on Twitter which “could jeopardise public order and provoke public opinion”.

The court held that the content put out by Al Qarni “could affect the relationship of the people with the leadership, and the relationship of Saudi Arabia with other countries”.

There were no further details but Okaz said Al Qarni was tried without having been arrested.

“We have appealed the case,” Al Qarni said on Twitter.

Lacroix, of Sciences Po university in Paris, told AFP in December that changes effected late last year to the kingdom’s highest religious authority confirmed an “anti-Sahwa, anti-Muslim Brotherhood” trend.

In 2010, Al Qarni was charged in absentia by an Egyptian court with funding the Muslim Brotherhood.


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