Saudi reform activist jailed for 6 months -lawyer

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RIYADH, Nov 8 (Reuters) A Saudi court has jailed a reform activist and his brother for encouraging women to stage rare public protests over the detention of suspected Islamist militants, their lawyer said today.

The court in the town of Buraida, north of Riyadh, sentenced Abdullah al-Hamed to six months in prison and his brother Isa to four months over two protests by women outside security headquarters in the town, Matruk al-Faleh said in a statement.

The women were demonstrating over the indefinite detention of their husbands, who are among 3,000 people still held since Islamist violence against the government flared in 2003.

The court, which gave its verdict yesterday, also found them guilty of trying to breach a security cordon around the house of one of the women and arguing with security guards.

Faleh said the trial aimed to punish Hamed for his reform activities. He was the signatory to a petition to King Abdullah this year calling for a parliamentary democracy.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter and close US ally, bans demonstrations and political parties and has no elected parliament.

''This guilty verdict will not stop people making their demands for spreading the culture of rights, the independence of the judiciary and popular participation in the nation's affairs,'' Faleh said in the statement.

Hamed was sentenced in 2005 to seven years in jail on charges of sowing dissent and challenging the royal family. Later that year, King Abdullah pardoned Hamed and two others convicted in the same high profile case.

REUTERS MS RAI1543

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