Salma al-Shehab is set to face 34 years in prison for retweeting a post on women’s rights.
In Saudi Arabia, a woman has just been sentenced on appeal to 34 years in prison for having tweeted. Salma al-Shehab is a student at the University of Leeds in the UK who returned to the country for a vacation. In January 2021, at the end of her stay, she was arrested for “disturbance of public order and destabilization of state security and order.”
On the social network, she shared publications in favor of the release of a political prisoner. The young woman had also campaigned on Twitter for the right of women to drive. She was initially sentenced to six years in prison before her sentence was increased on appeal.
According to a translation of the court records, consulted by The Guardianshe “helped those who seek to cause public unrest (…) by following their accounts on Twitter” and by re-sharing some of their posts. The Washington Postwhich reports this case, indicates that this is “a new glimpse into the brutal underside of the Saudi dictatorship under Crown Prince and Head of State Mohammed bin Salman.”
However, Salma al-Shehab is not a leading activist, she is followed by just over 2,000 people on Twitter. She also used her account to share her feelings about the health crisis and confinement.
The longest sentence for an activist
According to Freedom Initiative, a non-governmental organization, this is the longest sentence ever imposed on an activist. And his case would not be isolated. During his visit last month, President Joe Biden noted “an increase in cases of human rights concern.” He mentions, among other things, the “blatant murder of Jamal Khashoggi”. This Saudi journalist was murdered on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. He had strongly opposed the intervention of the Saudi armed forces in Yemen and was particularly active on Twitter.
Human rights organizations fear the kingdom will step up its crackdown over the coming months against regime opponents and activists. For The Guardianthe case of Salma al-Shehab is “the latest illustration of how the Crown Prince is targeting Twitter users in his campaign of repression, taking advantage of his major indirect shareholding in the American social network via the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.”
At this time, Twitter has not responded to media inquiries. let’s remember that the social network is 5% owned by a Saudi billionaire named Alwaleed bin Talal.