Saudi Arabia jails Leeds university student for 34 YEARS because she had a Twitter account
Saudi Arabia jails university student in Leeds for 34 YEARS for running a Twitter account and following dissident activists
- Salma al-Shebab, 34, posted tweets calling for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia
- She retweeted dissident activists and called for the release of imprisoned activists
- Saudi Arabia accused her of using Twitter to ’cause public unrest and destabilize civil and national security’ and the terrorism court sentenced her to 34 years in prison
A Saudi student at the University of Leeds who returned to the kingdom for a holiday has been sentenced to 34 years in prison for having a Twitter account and for following and retweeting dissident activists.
Salma al-Shebab, 34, was accused of using Twitter to “cause public unrest and destabilize civil and national security” after she posted tweets calling for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Shebab, who has two young sons, ages four and six, was initially sentenced to six years in prison, but a Saudi terrorism court on Monday increased her sentence to 34 years after the activist appealed her sentence.
The mother-of-two is also given a 34-year travel ban after serving her sentence.
Salma al-Shebab, 34, was accused of using Twitter to ’cause public unrest and destabilize civil and national security’ after posting tweets calling for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia
In sentencing, the court cited Al-Shebab’s social media activity, where she tweeted in support of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and expressed solidarity with imprisoned women’s rights activists such as Loujain al-Hathloul and called for their release.
Al-Shebab was arrested after she retweeted a message from Al-Hathloul’s sister Lina that read: ‘Freedom for Loujain Al-Hathloul… Freedom for all prisoners of conscience. Your freedom is my first wish for this new year – happy new year.’
Al-Shebab also sometimes retweeted messages from dissident activists living in exile.
She was charged with “providing aid to those seeking to disrupt public order and undermine the security of the general public and the stability of the state, and publishing false and tendentious rumors on Twitter.”
Al-Shebab was arrested in January 2021 while on holiday in Saudi Arabia, just days before she planned to return to the UK, where she was a PhD student at the University of Leeds.
Al-Shehab’s religious identity as a Shia Muslim, which is said to have been a factor in her arrest and conviction.
Al-Shebab, who has two young sons, ages four and six (pictured together), was initially sentenced to six years in prison, but a Saudi terrorism court on Monday increased her sentence to 34 years after the activist appealed her sentence.
dr. Bethany Al-Haidari, the Saudi case manager at the US-based human rights organization, said: “Saudi Arabia has boasted to the world that they are improving women’s rights and implementing legal reforms, but with this abhorrent sentence the situation is only going to get worse.” .
Unfortunately, it is no surprise that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman feels more empowered than ever to preside over such gross violations of rights.”
The verdict for Salma’s sentence was quoted by her social media account, where she supported women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul and called for her freedom.
‘Although Salma was sentenced to 6 years in the first instance, the sentence was increased to 34 years on appeal. This is the longest known sentence for a women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia.”
Al-Hathloul, who is wrongly held in Saudi Arabia under a travel ban, was released from prison just weeks after al-Shebab’s detention. Al-Shebab had called for Al-Hathloul’s release from prison.
Al-Haidari added: “It’s ironic that while Loujain’s release was being celebrated, Salma remained behind bars because she called for that same release.
“It is a pattern for the Saudi authorities to ensure that female activists do not celebrate or take credit for any of their hard-won victories.”