Saudi woman jailed for 34 years for using Twitter

Salma Al-Shebaab. © Democracy Now

A Saudi woman has been sentenced to 34 years at home for having her own Twitter account and retweeting the posts of “dissidents and activists”.

mtmSource: Guardian

Salma Al-Shebab, 34, studied at the University of Leeds, but returned to her home country for a holiday in December 2020. After the holiday, she will take her husband and two children to the United Kingdom.

However, during his stay in Saudi Arabia, he was questioned by local law enforcement officials and eventually arrested for his tweets. She was initially sentenced to three years in prison, but al-Shebaab appealed the conviction. But it didn’t go as planned. On Monday, an appeals court gave her an even harsher sentence: 34 years in prison, followed by a 34-year travel ban.

Al-Shabaab’s crime is officially described as “using a website to cause public unrest and disrupt civil and national security”.

Salma al-Shebaab has both an Instagram and Twitter account. She has 159 followers on Instagram and describes herself as a dental hygienist, medical educator, PhD student at the University of Leeds and mother to her sons Noah and Adam. He has 2,597 followers on Twitter and, between tweets about Covid burns and photos of his young children, he sometimes retweets posts from exiled Saudi protesters. For example, she appeared to support the case of Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent feminist activist who had previously been imprisoned and tortured for championing a women’s driver’s license.

Although the woman is believed to still be able to appeal against the sentence, the case points to a campaign of repression by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against Twitter users. He controls a large indirect stake in the American social media company through the Saudi sovereign wealth fund PIF.

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