Saudi Arabia has sentenced a woman to 34 years in prison and an additional 34 years under a travel ban for sharing her thoughts on Twitter, according to rights groups. Salma al-Shahab’s prison sentence was higher than any previously given to any activist or dissident, male or female, in Saudi Arabia, and may indicate an increase in the Saudi government’s crackdown on those who believe its narrative. challenge, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) said.
“The sentence issued against Salma al-Shahab is unprecedented and dangerous,” ESOHR said in a statement. The rights group is based in Europe and relies on contacts within the conservative Islamic Empire, where journalists are not allowed to work freely.
“In recent years, many women activists have been subjected to unfair trials, which have led to arbitrary punishment, in addition to some of them subjected to severe torture, including sexual assault,” the ESOHR said.
It is unclear whether al-Shabaab, a specialist in dentistry and a lecturer at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, considered himself a political or rights activist. According to The Guardian newspaper, she was studying for her PhD in the United Kingdom when she traveled to Saudi Arabia from the city of Leeds in December 2020.
During that visit, she was detained and questioned over several tweets, some of which called for the release of Saudi prisoners of conscience such as prominent women’s rights activist Louzain al-Hathloul. He also called for an end to Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system, which requires women to be supervised by men if they want to do virtually anything outside their homes.
The Guardian said she was formally arrested and tried for her tweets before she could travel back to the UK.
According to ESOHR, he was accused of “undermining the security of society and the stability of the state, spreading sedition, providing aid to those who disrupt public order and spreading false and malicious rumours on Twitter”.
He was initially sentenced to six years in prison in 2021 by Saudi Arabia’s secret Special Criminal Court, which is dedicated to hearing cases on terrorism charges. ESOHR said that despite all charges against him for being related to the tweets, an appeals court later increased his sentence to 34 years, invoking the “anti-terrorism regime and its financing to justify the harsh decision”.
“Salma’s sentencing under the terrorism and financing system confirms that Saudi Arabia treats those who reform and criticize social networks as terrorists,” ESOHR said.
The harsh punishment came just weeks after US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia was warned by human rights activists and critics that it could escalate the country’s crackdown on activists and dissidents.
ESOHR said, “The verdict against Salma al-Shahab shows that the recent steps taken by the Saudi government in the women’s rights file are not serious and that it is a whitewash campaign to improve its poor human rights record.” belongs to.” “The Saudi government continues without hesitation to practice its grave violations against women activists.”
Another rights group, the Washington DC-based Freedom Initiative, also reported a 34-year sentence for al-Shahab. The group’s Saudi Arabia case manager rebuked the kingdom and its powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, better known as MBS, for allowing harsher punishment while it claimed “to the world that they are women.” rights and legal reforms.”
“With this disgusting sentence there is no question that the situation is only going to get worse,” the group’s Dr. Bethany al-Haidari said in a statement published last week. “It is unfortunately no surprise that MBS feels more empowered than ever to preside over such serious rights violations. Without any real steps towards accountability, Biden’s visit to Jeddah and the international The embrace of the community should feel like a green light.