My charge is a tweet: Why does the Saudi judiciary not abide by its own laws?

We have all heard about the Saudi regime’s admission of its repression policy in a TV program aired on a state-run TV channel, where a detainee confirmed in the interview that he was imprisoned over a tweet, providing clear evidence that the Saudi authorities are repressing social media users.

In the interview, the detainee spoke about the law upon which he was tried and sentenced to prison, saying that the prison sentences issued against detainees for “offensive tweets” range between 1 and 5 years, while the prison sentences for “incitement” charges are up to 15 years. However, the courts’ orders violate even this arbitrary law.

Although there is no legal basis to imprison someone for years for just tweeting, the Saudi judiciary does not respect its own law, where the prison sentences related to tweeting are double or triple the sentences set in the law.

Salma al-Shehab, for example, was sentenced to 34 years, followed by a 34-year travel ban, on charges of following opponents’ Twitter accounts and re-tweeting their tweets. In January, she was re-sentenced to 27 years in jail and a travel ban of the same length.

Along the same line, US citizen Saad Almadi was sentenced to 16 years in October 2022 for critical tweets. His prison sentence was later increased to 19 years.

Last August, Noura bint Saeed Al-Qahtani, a mother of five, received a 45-year prison sentence after being convicted of “using the internet to tear the (Saudi) social fabric.”

Many other political prisoners were tried and imprisoned for tweeting while the public prosecutor demanded their execution, as was the case with the preachers Salman al-Ouda and Awad al-Qarni, and others, or life imprisonment, as was the case with Abdul Rahman al-Sadhan.

In this regard, we stress the need for an urgent international intervention to put an end to the Saudi repressive and unfair practices against the dissident voices, to investigate all the unfair prison sentences issued against them, and to guarantee their right to a fair trial.

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