Saudi activist sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweets

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Saudi women’s rights activist Salma al-Shehab was sentenced to 34 years in prison on Monday for her activities on Twitter, according to court documents seen by Saudi Arabia. CNN .

Al-Shehab, 33, was also banned from traveling outside Saudi Arabia for another 34 years.

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The doctoral student at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom had been arrested in January 2021 and subjected to interrogation sessions for a period of 265 days before being taken to the Specialized Criminal Court, according to the independent human rights organization ALQST.

She initially received a six-year sentence late last year — which was increased to 34 years after Al-Shehab filed an appeal, according to the documents.

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The charges brought against her by the Public Ministry included “providing relief to those seeking to disrupt public order and undermine the safety of the general public and the stability of the state, and publishing false and biased rumors on Twitter,” ALQST said.

Al Shehab told the court that, without notice, she was “pulled” into the months-long investigation, during which she was kept in solitary confinement, according to court documents.

The mother of two also asked the court to consider the need to care for her children and sick mother, according to the documents.

ALQST’s head of monitoring and communications, Lina Al-Hathloul, told CNN that al-Shehab was arrested for supporting her sister Loujain al-Hathloul — a prominent activist who spent more than 1,000 days in prison following a sweep in May 2018. that targeted known opponents of the government’s rescinded law banning women from driving — and other Twitter placements.

Lina Al-Hathloul said in the ALQST statement that Al-Shehab’s sentence “makes a mockery of the Saudi authorities’ demands for reform for women and the legal system”, adding that it “shows that they remain determined to severely punish anyone who express your opinions freely.”

They called on the Saudi government to release Al-Shehab and demanded that the government protect freedom of expression.

Al-Shehab’s Twitter account remains online with a pinned tweet that reads: “Freedom for prisoners of opinion and all the oppressed of the world.”

The US State Department said Wednesday that it was “studying” the case.

“But I can say this is a general matter and I can say this unqualifiedly and resolutely: the exercise of free speech to defend women’s rights should not be criminalized,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. an interview with reporters.

Asked if Saudi Arabia was encouraged by recent US engagements with the country, Price replied that “our commitment… has made it clear… that human rights are central to our agenda.”

Kylie Atwood of CNN contributed to this story.

Source: CNN Brasil

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