Saudi Arabia has sentenced seven activists from its restive Eastern Province to prison terms ranging from five to 10 years for posting messages on Facebook calling for anti-government protests, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Sunday.
The New York-based rights group urged EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and other European officials who were meeting with Gulf counterparts, including Saudi Arabia, in Manama on Sunday to condemn the convictions.
Eastern Province has seen occasional protests by minority Shi'ite Muslims over the past two years against alleged discrimination and negligence, which the Riyadh government denies.
"Sending people off to years in prison for peaceful Facebook posts sends a strong message that there's no safe way to speak out in Saudi Arabia, even on online social networks," Joe Stork, HRW's deputy Middle East director, said in a statement.
"If the EU doesn't raise these cases with Saudi officials this weekend, its silence will look like craven compliance with the rights abuses of an authoritarian state."