Salma al-Shehab, 34, a doctorate candidate at the University of Leeds in the UK, she was on a visit to her husband and two small sons.
The activist Loujain al-Hathloul was imprisoned and tortured after she advocated for Saudi women’s freedom to drive. Shehab, who only has 2,597 followers on Twitter, utilised the medium to voice her opposition.
Shehab was first given a six-year prison sentence by the Saudi government after they used her advocacy and other tweets as examples of how she had used social media to “create public discontent and disrupt civil and national security.”
Shehab contended in her appeal that because she frequently shared images of her children and other innocent content on the platform and used her own identity when using it, her small following did not represent a security danger. In retaliation, the kingdom’s counterterrorism laws as well as the cybercrime statute were demanded to be used in the prosecution of the former dental hygienist and university lecturer.
The 34-year sentence, which will be followed by a 34-year travel ban, was announced by the terrorism court on August 8. It is the longest term for a women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia that is known, claims the Freedom Initiative, a non-profit that supports inmates in the Middle East and North Africa.
Shehab was given a severe punishment just a few weeks after President Biden visited Saudi Arabia and shook hands with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
The controversial young prince, whose Public Investment Firm (PIF) holds a sizable indirect investment in Twitter, is no stranger to using harsh measures to stifle competing opinions. He allegedly gave the order to kill writer Jamal Khashoggi just four years ago.
According to expatriate Saudi Khalic Aljabri, the Shehab case is only the most recent manifestation of “MBS’s vicious repression machine.”
Her sentencing “is intended to create shock waves inside and outside the country, just as Khashoggi’s murder,” he said. If you dare to criticise MBS, you risk being dismembered or imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.
Aljabri’s assertion matched one made in a Washington Post editorial on Tuesday, which referred to Shehab’s sentencing as proof that the crown prince’s ambivalent claims to human rights during Biden’s visit were a “farce.”
The editorial board declared that Mr. Biden “must at the very least… demand Ms. Shehab’s release.”
Shehab’s safety in prison is a major issue, notwithstanding the possibility that she could submit another appeal. Shehab was routinely kept in solitary confinement, according to a person familiar with the case, and the court turned down her request for a meeting to discuss her treatment.
According to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Saudi Arabia often subjects female campaigners to arbitrary sentences, torture, and sexual harassment.
Just a few weeks after Shehab’s incarceration, Loujain al-Hathloul, whose detention Shehab fought, was freed from custody. She continues to be prohibited from leaving Saudi Arabia.
While Loujain’s release was welcomed, Salma remained imprisoned on the grounds that she had advocated for that very release, according to Dr. Bethany Al-Haidari, a case manager with the Freedom Initiative.
She declared in a statement, “The Saudi authorities must release Salma.” “And make sure her young boys don’t grow up without a mother just because she asked for freedom for human rights advocates,” the statement continued.