A Saudi student at Leeds University who returned to the Kingdom for a holiday has been sentenced to 34 years in prison for following and retweeting dissident activists on her Twitter account. MailOnline has more.
Salma al-Shebab, 34, was accused of using Twitter to “cause public unrest and destabilise civil and national security” after she posted tweets calling for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Shebab, who has two young sons aged four and six, was initially sentenced to six years in prison but a Saudi terrorism court on Monday increased her jail-term to 34 years after the activist appealed her sentence.
The mother-of-two will also face a 34-year travel ban after serving her sentence.
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 post from Al-Hathloul’s sister Lina which 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 would also sometimes retweet posts from dissident activists who were living in exile.
She was accused of “providing succour to those seeking to disrupt public order and undermine the safety of the general public and stability of the state, and publishing false and tendentious rumours on Twitter”.
Al-Shebab was arrested in January 2021 while on holiday in Saudi Arabia just days before she planned to return to the U.K., where she was a PhD student at the University of Leeds.
Al-Shehab’s religious identity as a Shi’a Muslim, who is believed to have been a factor in her arrest and sentencing.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Salma al-Shebab was reported to the Saudi authorities by someone using a snitching app called called Kollona Amn, which translates as “All Are Safe”. A good example of how state authorities are invoking public safety to justify censorship. The Guardian has more.