Saudi writer sentenced to prison for criticizing royal court

State-linked Saudi media are reporting that a criminal court in the kingdom has sentenced a columnist to five years in prison for insulting the royal court, which represents the king and crown prince.

As is typical in such cases, local media didn't identify the journalist by name or affiliation, saying only that he is a Saudi national. Okaz online reported Thursday the court also imposed a five-year travel ban against the writer after his release.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has urged Saudi authorities to release the writer, Saleh al-Shehi, who was detained after his Dec. 8 appearance on the privately-owned Rotana Channel after saying that any Saudi citizen who has a contact within the royal court automatically has an advantage in buying strategically located land, unavailable to the public.