Saudi Arabia sentenced a woman to 34 years in prison for her Twitter activities
By: Ahmed Fathi
Last Thursday, Saudi Arabia sentenced a woman to 34 years in prison for her Twitter activities, rights groups said.
Rights groups say Salma al-Shehab was detained in Saudi Arabia days before she planned to return to Britain. The 33-year-charges old's involve Twitter, according to court documents.
Shehab used Twitter to promote ending the country's guardianship system, which gives men legal control over women's lives. She wants Saudi political prisoners released.
The court records accusing Shehab of using social media to disrupt public order, harm society and state security, and aid criminals who violated counterterrorism law and its financing the Washington Post reported
Court documents claim she followed their social media, retweeted their tweets, and spread bogus claims. After appealing her conviction, it was ruled that her prison sentence was too short and lacked restriction and deterrence.
The judge also confiscated her phone and Twitter account and gave her a 34-year prison sentence and travel ban.
Anti-status quo activists are often accused of spreading sedition and disturbing the state. Saudi Arabia uses its antiterrorism law against demonstrators, especially those who question Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Shehab got a six-year sentence in 2021. When she appealed, her sentence was quadrupled to 34, the harshest for a peaceful activist.
Rights groups are concerned about the new counterterrorism law. Human Rights Watch said in April that the notoriously draconian counterterrorism law and the anti-cybercrime law have vague and too broad portions. Consistently harsh decisions.
Lina al-Hathloul of London-based Saudi rights group ALQST is trying to keep her Twitter account open.
We're working with Twitter to make sure people know if it's closed, it's from the Saudi government and not her, she said. The Post asked Twitter for comment.
European Saudi Organization for Human Rights said Shehab's imprisonment under the
counterterrorism legislation shows Saudi Arabia sees reformers and social media critics as terrorists.
The group said the ruling sets a dangerous precedent and shows that Saudi Arabia's efforts to modernize the kingdom and enhance women's rights are whitewashing to improve its human rights record.
Shehab was a lecturer at Riyadh's Princess Nourah University and a PhD student in Leeds. A Leeds colleague said she was exploring oral and dental innovations in Saudi Arabia.
The anonymous source described Shehab as friendly and generous.
A colleague stated she seldom addressed politics, focused instead on her children. Missing family.
Shehab left Britain in 2019 and never attended school again. Given England's coronavirus shutdown, few were worried. People started asking about Salma, her coworker said.
How could she be arrested? We all wondered. The Post was ignored by Leeds University.
The British Foreign Office said ministers and senior diplomats have repeatedly expressed concerns over the detention of Women's Rights Defenders to Saudi authorities and will continue to do so.
Many Sunni Muslims consider Shehab's Shiite sect heretical. Saudi Sunnis suspect Shiites.
Saudi Arabia's Shiite treatment is criticized. Human Rights Watch's annual report says Saudi Arabia discriminates against Shiites and other Muslims.
Two days before her arrest, Shehab retweeted a popular Arabic song on Jan. 13, 2021.
She posted a prayer on Twitter asking for mercy if she ever transgressed against another human and asking God to help her reject injustice and encourage those who do.
Freedom for prisoners of conscience and oppressed finishes the tweet.