Saudi student gets 34 year prison sentence for tweets

Saudi student gets 34 year prison sentence for tweets

“A Saudi court has sentenced a doctoral student to 34 years in prison for spreading ‘rumors’ and retweeting dissidents,” reports Voice of America News. The harsh sentence triggered global condemnation.

The sentence imposed on Salma al-Shehab, a mother of two and a researcher at Leeds University in England, came amidst Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on dissent. Critics have suggested the decision was “a setback for women’s rights.” But there is no evidence that the harsh sentence was due to al-Shehab’s sex. Indeed, the recent crackdown on dissent has coincided with a broadening of women’s rights in other respects, such as granting women the right to drive and protections against workplace employment discrimination.

The VOA reports:

Al-Shehab was detained during a family vacation in January 2021 just days before she planned to return to the United Kingdom, according to the Freedom Initiative, a Washington-based human rights group.

Al-Shehab told judges she had been jailed for over 285 days before her case was even referred to court, the legal documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

The Freedom Initiative describes al-Shehab as a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite Muslim minority, which has long complained of systematic discrimination in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia has boasted to the world that they are improving women’s rights and creating legal reform, but there is no question with this abhorrent sentence that the situation is only getting worse,” said Bethany al-Haidari, the group’s Saudi case manager….Judges accused al-Shehab of “disturbing public order” and “destabilizing the social fabric” — claims stemming solely from her social media activity, according to an official charge sheet. They alleged al-Shehab followed and retweeted dissident accounts on Twitter and “transmitted false rumors.”

A special court for terrorism and national security crimes handed down the unusually harsh 34-year sentence, to be followed by a 34-year travel ban. The decision came earlier this month as al-Shehab appealed her initial sentence of six years.

“The (six-year) prison sentence imposed on the defendant was minor in view of her crimes,” a state prosecutor told the appeals court. “I’m calling to amend the sentence in light of her support for those who are trying to cause disorder and destabilize society, as shown by her following and retweeting (Twitter) accounts.”

LU Staff

LU Staff

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