Saudi Authorities Refuse Int’l Appeals to Release Salma Al-Shehab

Well-informed sources revealed that the Saudi Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) re-sentenced the activist Salma al-Shehab to 27 years in prison, reduced from a 34-year term, followed by a 27-year travel ban.

The January’s 27-years prison sentence was reduced from a 34-year term imposed last August. Other women’s rights activists also received harsh sentences, including Noura Al-Qahtani and Sakina Al-Othman.

Al-Shehab was arrested in January 2021 while on a visit to the Saudi kingdom. She was later sentenced in March 2022 to six years in prison on terrorism charges over her peaceful Twitter activity.

Al-Shehab appealed, only to have her sentence increased on appeal in August 2022 to a shocking and unprecedented 34-year term, followed by a 34-year travel ban. On 25 January, she was re-sentenced to 27 years in jail and a travel ban of the same length.

 Al-Shehab was charged for using the internet to “cause public unrest and destabalise civil and national security.”

Salma al-Shehab wasn’t known as an activist when she was detained by Saudi authorities in 2021, but her case now embodies women’s struggle for freedom in Saudi Arabia. Her small but brave acts of solidarity (retweets supporting women’s rights) earned her 27 years in prison.

The prison sentence came nearly two months since US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, during which he proved that his pledges to defend human rights are nothing but false promises and empty slogans.

Human rights defenders have earlier warned that Biden’s visit to the Kingdom will only provide a green light to commit more violations and tighten restrictions on opponents at home and abroad.

A few weeks after the visit, the Saudi authorities began to tighten and toughen prison sentences against the prisoners of conscience and opponents, both males and females.

The Saudi woman appears to have been denounced to Saudi authorities through a crime-reporting app that users in the kingdom can download to Apple and Android phones.

A review of Leeds PhD student Salma al-Shehab’s tweets and interactions shows she was messaged by a person using a Saudi account on November 15, 2020 after she posted a mildly critical tweet in response to a Saudi government post about a new public transportation contract.

The user told Shehab that he had reported her on the Saudi app, which is called Kollona Amn, or We Are All Security. It is not clear whether the Saudi officials responded directly to the report, but the 34-year-old mother was arrested two months later.

Shehab’s case has been condemned by human rights groups and other pro-democracy outlets who said the draconian sentence against her was more evidence of the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s relentless crackdown on dissent.

Together for Justice renews its total rejection to such politically-motivated arbitrary court rulings which followed secret trials that violate international fair trial standards, calling on the international community to put an end to such arbitrary rulings.

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