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Saudi Arabia jails 2 Americans in crackdown on dissent

Silencing critics of the government

HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia arrested eight people for voicing opinions it considered to be subversive, including a pregnant woman and two dual U.S.-Saudi citizens.

Here's what we know

Officials arrested the eight critics of the government Thursday, many of them at their own homes. The seven men and one woman had been placed under a travel ban in February. All eight had openly supported both women's rights and some government reforms. Some also have expressed support in the past for other political prisoners held by the Saudi government.

According to the Associated Press, the detainees included Salah al-Haidar (the son of a women's rights activist who herself had only recently been freed from a Saudi prison) who owns a home in Vienna, Virginia, and Bader Al-Ibrahim, a physician and writer with dual U.S.-Saudi citizenship. The other prisoners included writers and a journalist. One of those arrested, a feminist writer, is pregnant.

According to The Guardian, none of the eight had tweeted anything critical of the regime, nor were they "widely quoted in foreign media."

This is the first reported crackdown on dissenters since the October murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Guardian reported that a third dual U.S. citizen has been imprisoned since 2017.

How bad is it for critics in Saudi Arabia?

Although Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been praised for his reforms, including allowing women to drive cars, attend soccer games, and operate food trucks, he and the Saudi government still brutally seek to crush any opposition to their authority.

In September, the kingdom passed a new law declaring that online satire that "ridicules, provokes and disrupts public order, religious values and public morals through social media" can result in an $800,000 fine and five years in prison. The crown prince has even arrested several members of his own family.

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