Saudi Woman Sentenced to 34 Years in Prison for Twitter Activity.
A Saudi Arabian woman was sentenced to 34 years in prison, plus an additional 34 years of being banned from leaving the Gulf Kingdom, due to her Twitter posts.
Salma al-Shehab, a married mother of two and a student at the University of Leeds in the UK, was arrested after returning to Saudi Arabia for a visit in December 2020.
Because al-Shehab retweeted and followed Saudi dissidents and activists, many of whom called for political reforms and greater rights for women, she was prosecuted for using the internet to “cause public unrest and destabilize civil and national security.”
A special terrorism court found her guilty in 2021, and she was originally sentenced to three years in prison.
But on Monday, an appeals court ruled that al-Shehab’s original punishment had been too light, and resentenced her to 34 years imprisonment.
According to a report by the Guardian, court records revealed al-Shehab’s public support for Loujain al-Hathloul, a woman’s rights activist who was imprisoned and tortured for lobbying the Saudi government to allow women to drive, had sparked particular concern.
“Salma [al-Shehab]’s draconian sentencing in a terrorism court over peaceful tweets is the latest manifestation of [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s] ruthless repression machine,” Khalid Jabri, a Saudi dissident living outside of the kingdom, told the Guardian.
“Just like [journalist Jamal] Khashoggi’s assassination, her sentencing is intended to send shock waves inside and outside the kingdom – dare to criticize MBS and you will end up dismembered or in Saudi dungeons.”
The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights said in a statement that “the sentence issued against Salma al-Shehab is unprecedented and dangerous, as it is the longest prison sentence issued against female or male activists and might be a step towards further escalation against them.”
The NGO also noted that
“in recent years, many women activists have been subjected to unfair trials that have led to arbitrary sentences, in addition to some of them being subjected to severe torture, including sexual harassment.”