Saudi Producer Sentenced To 13 Years In Prison Over Animated Netflix Series

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Jul 03, 2024 - 08:15 AM

Via Middle East Eye

Saudi writer and producer Abdul Aziz al-Muzaini has been sentenced to 13 years in prison and 13 years of travel ban, on charges of promoting terrorism and homosexuality through his Netflix show and old tweets.

In a video posted on YouTube and X (formerly Twitter) addressed to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, al-Muzaini said that a committee in Saudi Arabia’s audiovisual commission brought up to 30 charges against him in connection with his popular animated series Masameer in 2021, shortly after it premiered on Netflix.

Al-Muzaini says he was questioned by Saad al-Suhaimi, the chairman of the committee, who first questioned his choice of partnering with Netflix instead of working with MBC, a Saudi network.

Masameer County, screenshot via NetFlix

Al-Muzaini told his interrogator that he had already spoken to Israa Osseiri, head of the General Authority for Audio-visual Media, to make sure his show does not violate any laws. This prompted al-Suhaimi to message Osseiri, ordering her to stay away from the case.

According to a Royal Court letter released during the time of late Saudi King Abdullah, al-Suhaimi’s committee enjoys independence from the general audio-visual authorities.

Al-Muzaini says his interrogator told him "not to think that this is it, that there is entertainment now, there is the Riyadh season," alluding to the recent developments in the Saudi entertainment industry and the loosening of restrictions. "It seems he has found, through me, a person he can exert his authority over,” al-Muzaini said in the video.

Middle East Eye has contacted the Saudi government and Netflix for comment. The accusations brought against al-Muzaini include the use of language in his series, where sentences such as “may God curse you” and “you donkey” amounted to a crime.

The final and most serious charge accuses al-Muzaini and his company, Myrcott, of supporting terrorism and homosexuality through their series Masameer. According to al-Muzaini, his accusers interpreted the first episode of his show, which mocks Islamic State, as an implicit endorsement of the group.

Al-Suhaimi then brought forward a series of tweets made by al-Muzaini between 2010 and 2014 which were used to bring other charges against him.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution service had initially requested a 25-year imprisonment followed by a 25-year travel ban, which were reduced to 13 years each by the country’s Terrorism Court last month.

Abdul Aziz al-Muzaini is the producer of the Netflix animated series Masameer, via X

Al-Muzaini said that prior to the ruling, he was reassured by informed people that the case was unworthy and only needed to be solved through bureaucracy. He was also told that al-Suhaimi, along with everyone who signed the accusations against him, were fired, when al-Suhaimi was simply reassigned to another committee.

The writer and producer deleted his video a few hours after posting it and shared a post on X quoting Bin Salman saying he will hold the corrupt accountable.

He then shared a post praising the head of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, Turki al-Sheikh. Al-Muzaini’s case comes as Saudi Arabia faces criticism from many human rights organizations over its alleged use of the entertainment sector to try to lessen its reputation as an authoritarian regime.