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Popular Saudi preacher fined, banned from Twitter

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RIYADH: A Saudi preacher with more than 2 million Twitter followers has been banned from tweeting by a court that convicted him of jeopardizing public order.
The cleric, previously accused of links to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, was also fined SR100,000 ($27,000), Okaz newspaper reported Thursday.
It did not name the “famous preacher,” but Awad Al-Qarni confirmed the verdict on his @awadalqarni Twitter account late Thursday.
“I am prevented from writing” on the account, he tweeted, before issuing a Twitter message early Friday thanking his followers.
Okaz said Riyadh’s Specialized Criminal Court, which handles “terrorism” cases, on Thursday convicted the preacher of spreading content on Twitter that “could jeopardize public order and provoke public opinion.”
It said the content “could affect the relationship of the people with the leadership, and the relationship of Saudi Arabia with other countries.” Okaz said the preacher was tried without having been arrested.
Al-Qarni has often been criticized in the local press and on social media for his radical views about scholars who disagree with his interpretation of religion.
Okaz previously reported that he once claimed to be so influential that Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad placed a bounty on his head and plotted to kill him.
The unsubstantiated claim led to columnists and social media users harshly ridiculing him.
In 2010, Al-Qarni was charged in absentia by an Egyptian court with funding the Muslim Brotherhood.
— with input from AFP

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