Saudi woman sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweeting

News
Saudi woman sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweeting
Saudi woman sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweeting
17 August, 18:07PoliticsPhoto: ESOHR / The Guardian
Experts consider her case to be the next stage of repression carried out in the country by the crown prince, who equates dissent with terrorism.

Saudi doctor Salma al-Shehab, 34, was sentenced to 34 years in prison for running a Twitter account where she retweeted messages from dissidents and civil activists. It is reported by The Guardian.

Initially, the mother of two young children was sentenced to three years in prison after a special anti-terrorism court accused her of using the website to "engage in public disorder and destabilize civil and national security." But on Monday, an appeals court handed down a new, harsher sentence of 34 years in prison followed by a 34-year travel ban. This came after the public prosecutor asked the court to consider other alleged crimes, which resulted in Shehab being charged with new charges. According to the protocols, the woman “helped those who seek to cause civil unrest and destabilize civil and national security by following their Twitter accounts” and reposting their tweets.

Shehab is difficult to call civil activists. By occupation, she is a dental hygienist, a PhD student at the University of Leeds and a lecturer at Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University. She is married and has two sons. On the woman's Twitter, where she has 2,597 followers, retweets from exiled Saudi dissidents are interspersed with posts about covid burnout and pictures of children. British acquaintances of Shehab describe her as a well-educated person with broad interests and a heightened sense of justice. She came to the UK three or four years ago to complete her PhD at the University of Leeds. At the end of 2020, Shehab returned to Saudi Arabia to take her children and husband to the UK with her. She was called in for questioning, after which she was arrested and filed for tweets.

According to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Shehab received the harshest sentence ever handed down to civil activists, and this is a sign of the kingdom's growing repression, when simple dissent is equated with terrorism. It is curious that, while pursuing users of the social network, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman simultaneously indirectly controls a large stake in Twitter.

One of Twitter's biggest investors is Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the current king's nephew and cousin of the crown prince, who owns more than 5% of the US company through his investment company Kingdom Holdings. In 2018, it became known to the world media that Prince Al-Waleed was held captive for 83 days at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh. According to experts, this incident was one of the stages of the purge that Prince Mohammed is conducting against members of the royal family and businessmen, trying to expropriate their billions of dollars into the treasury of Saudi Arabia. In an interview with Bloomberg, which Prince Al-Waleed gave two months after his release, the billionaire admitted that he had reached an "understanding" with the government. In May of this year, it was announced that about 17% of Kingdom Holding was sold to PIF, whose chairman is Prince Mohammed. This makes the Saudi government a significant indirect investor in Twitter.

Exiled Saudi Arabian Khalid Aljabri commented on Shehab's case: "Salma's draconian sentencing in an anti-terrorism court for peaceful tweets is the latest manifestation of MBS [the Crown Prince's] ruthless repressive machine. Just like the murder of [journalist Jamal] Khashoggi, her verdict is meant to shock inside and outside the kingdom: dare to criticize MBS and you will find yourself dismembered or in Saudi dungeons.”

As far as is known, Salma al-Shehab Shehab can still appeal his case.

Found a typo in the text? Select it and press ctrl + enter