Saudi Arabia has arrested 22 people, including a Qatari national, for “inciting against public order” on social media, authorities said, following a crackdown on dissent.
Those detained had posted video clips online, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday, adding that authorities were investigating their motives and connections.
“The presidency managed to identify the people behind the clips and arrested them. Their number is 22 people, one of them Qatari, and the rest are Saudis. Their motives and links are being verified,” SPA said.
They were arrested for circulating “video clips on social networking sites inciting against public order and stirring up feelings”, SPA added without any further details.
Crackdown on dissent
Saudi Arabia recently launched a crackdown on dissenters, detaining prominent clerics and activists ahead of a government decision to allow women to drive.
In September, up to 20 influential Saudi religious scholars were arrested, including some of the kingdom’s most influential preachers.
Activists dedicated to monitoring what they describe as “prisoners of conscience” reported on social media that at least eight prominent figures, including scholars, academics, television anchors and a poet, had been detained.
A Saudi security source told Reuters news agency that the suspects were accused of “espionage activities and having contacts with external entities including the Muslim Brotherhood”, which Riyadh has classified as a “terrorist” organisation.
Separately, SPA quoted the interior ministry as saying that 24 people were arrested in the northwestern province of Hail for “exploiting social networking sites to promote lies and exaggerations” with the aim of provoking “sedition and tribal tensions”.
It was not clear whether the two sets of arrests were connected.
SPA also did not offer details on the arrested Qatari national.
Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar in June, in the worst diplomatic crisis to roil the Gulf for years.
The four countries accuse Qatar of backing extremism and fostering ties with Iran, their Shia rival, charges that Doha denies.