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Feminist activist sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweets

The Saudi judiciary has issued a 34-year prison sentence for a Saudi feminist activist, against the background of tweets she posted on Twitter. Activist Salma Al-Shehab, 34, was charged with “providing assistance” to dissidents seeking to “destabilize the state”. According to the case documents, she has the right to annul the ruling before the Supreme Court within 30 days of receiving the court’s decision.

The Court of Appeal ruled Saudi A Saudi feminist activist studying for a doctorate was imprisoned for 34 years on charges of “providing assistance” to opponents seeking to “destabilize the state”, against the background of tweets on Twitter, according to the case papers.

The ruling came in the context of a widespread crackdown targeting activists and human rights defenders in the Gulf kingdom, with prison sentences and long-standing travel bans.

Last June, a Saudi court sentenced Salma Al-Shehab, 34, a mother of two, to six years in prison, three suspended sentences, and a travel ban for the same prison sentence.

More: Macron hosts bin Salman in a move to “rehabilitate” amid the anger of human rights defenders

The verdict comes after Al-Shehab was convicted on Twitter of “sending what disturbs public order and undermines the security of society and the stability of the state.”

On August 9, the District Court of Appeal decided to increase the sentence after an appeal by the Public Prosecution Office and her representative, and sentenced her to 34 years in prison and banned her from traveling for the same period.

Providing assistance to those who violate the security of the country

The Court of Appeal convicted Al-Shehab of “providing assistance to those who seek to disturb public order and spread false and malicious news” by “writing and publishing tweets” on Twitter.

In its new ruling, the court noted that “it has not been clear to the circuit that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant will not revert to any of the offenses with which she is accused.”

According to the case documents, she has the right to annul the ruling before the Supreme Court within 30 days of receiving the court’s decision. Al-Shehab is not a prominent activist, and the number of her Twitter followers is about 2,600 followers, and her tweets are related to the defense of women’s rights in the Kingdom.

Al-Shehab, who is studying a doctorate in dentistry at the University of Leeds in England, was arrested while she was on vacation in Saudi Arabia in January 2021.

‘Longest prison sentence’ for activists

Human rights organizations condemned the ruling, which is the “longest prison sentence” imposed on any activist in Saudi Arabia.

For her part, Lynn Al-Hathloul, head of the monitoring and communication department at the London-based human rights organization ALQST, said, “This terrible prison sentence reveals the mockery of the Saudi authorities and the lack of seriousness of allegations of reform and change of laws and regulations. In favor of women, and expresses its determination to impose the most severe penalties on those who express their opinions and express them freely.

A close friend of the Saudi activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Al-Shehab returned to Saudi Arabia in December 2020 for vacation after the Covid-19 epidemic prevented her from traveling to the kingdom for months.

Meteor has limited presence on Twitter

According to her friend, Al-Shehab “did not think that her Twitter activity might cause her any problems before we were surprised by her arrest.”

Al-Shehab’s representative objected to the ruling and said, “It must be taken into account that I did not warn before and did not take any pledge before the suspension.” She also said that the number of her followers is “modest”, wondering, “How can I be with this influence and ability to disrupt the system of a state built on a strong and solid foundation.”

The new ruling came less than a month after US President Joe Biden met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

This move represents a setback for Biden, who promised during his election campaign to turn the kingdom into a “pariah” state due to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and its human rights record.

Biden has refrained from communication for more than a year and a half with the crown prince, the de facto ruler of his country, but the war in Ukraine and record high oil prices have prompted Biden to break the Western isolation imposed on the Saudi crown. Amir since Khashoggi’s murder.

A CIA report concluded that the crown prince “authorized” the operation that led to the killing of Khashoggi, but Riyadh denied this, and indicated the involvement of rogue elements in the horrific incident.

FRANCE 24 / AFP

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Source: France 24

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