The London-based human rights organization ALQST denounced in a press release “the longest prison sentence ever imposed by the Saudi authorities on a peaceful activist”.
A Saudi court sentenced Salma Al-Chehab, a student, to a 34-year prison term and a ban on leaving her country for a similar period after her release from detention, according to a court document seen by the Agence France-Presse Wednesday August 17. His crime? “Having provided assistance to those who seek to disturb public order and spread false and malicious information”in “writing and posting tweets” on his personal account.
With around 2,600 Twitter followers, 34-year-old Salma Al-Chehab regularly relayed messages in favor of women’s rights in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
According to The Guardian, these are essentially retweets of messages from Saudi dissidents calling for the release of political prisoners. The British daily notes that the student seemed in particular to support Loujain Al-Hathloul, imprisoned for several years for having campaigned for the right of women to drive. Twitter has not commented on the matter.
Saudi woman given 34-year prison sentence for using Twitter https://t.co/65uYxLd6EF
Possible challenge to the Supreme Court
A doctoral student in dentistry at the University of Leeds in England and mother of two children, Salma Al-Chehab was arrested in January 2021 while she was on vacation in Saudi Arabia.
In June 2022, a court sentenced her at first instance to six years in prison, three of which were suspended, a sentence considerably increased by the judgment rendered on August 9. The judgment on appeal can be challenged within thirty days before the Supreme Court.
Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has given new rights to women, such as driving or traveling alone. However, the kingdom is regularly singled out by NGOs for serious human rights violations, in particular its crackdown on political dissidents and feminist activists.