Aug 17, 2022 - World

Female Saudi activist gets 34 years in prison for using Twitter

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Saudi Arabia sentenced a women's rights activist to 34 years in prison Monday over her Twitter activity, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The case against Salma al-Shehab marks the country's longest sentence against an activist, renewing fears among government critics, the Post writes.

  • She was accused of using Twitter to “disrupt public order, undermine the security of society and stability of the state, and support those who had committed criminal actions according to the counterterrorism law and its financing," according to court records obtained by the Post.

The big picture: The charges are accusations frequently used against activists in the kingdom who speak up against the status quo, the Post writes.

Details: Al-Shehab was detained in January 2021 while on vacation in Saudi Arabia.

  • The court records said Al-Shehab supported criminals by following their social media accounts, retweeting their posts and spreading false rumors.

By the numbers: She was initially given a six-year sentence but that was increased to 34 years after she appealed the initial conviction.

  • It was decided that her prison sentence was not long enough "considering her crimes," according to the court records, and that her previous sentence failed to "achieve restraint and deterrence."
  • She was also banned from traveling outside of Saudi Arabia for 34 years after her sentence ends.

What they're saying: The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights called the sentence against al-Shehab "unprecedented and dangerous."

  • "Sentencing Salma under the counter-terrorism and financing system confirms that Saudi Arabia deals with those who demand reforms and critics on social networks as terrorists, in addition to the deep flaws in this system," the nonprofit said.
  • "The Saudi government continues to practice its grave violations against women activists without any hesitation."

Of note: The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that it's "studying" the case, CNN reported.

  • While Biden was at a summit in Saudi Arabia last month, he called on Gulf countries to ensure human rights and that people are allowed "to question and criticize leaders without fear of reprisal.”
  • The U.S. president once vowed to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" over its human rights record.

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