Following dissidents on Twitter becomes risky for Saudi Woman

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Saudi arabia Saudi arabiaHuman rights organizations have denounced the severe judgment of a Saudi woman, 34, who was detained last year and sentenced to 34 years in jail for allegedly following and retweeting activists and dissidents on Twitter. The lady, a PhD candidate at Leeds University in the UK, had left on vacation when she was scheduled, according to The Guardian.

According to reports, the punishment is one of the harshest prison terms ever imposed on a Saudi woman’s rights advocate. A special terrorist court first gave Salma al-Shehab a three-year jail term. According to the court, Shehab “caused public disturbance and destabilized civil and national security” through using a website. An appeals court changed it later on Monday, increasing the sentence to 34 years in jail and a 34-year travel restriction.

A number of human rights organizations have denounced the decision and demanded her release, including the Human Rights Foundation, The Freedom Initiative, the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, and ALQST for Human Rights.

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The Freedom Initiative issued a statement saying, “We urge on Saudi authorities to release Salma, allowing her to go back and care for the kids while finishing her studies in safety in the United Kingdom.” It said, “Tweeting in support of women’s rights advocates is not illegal.”

According to court papers, Shehab is accused of “assisting people who aim to incite public disturbance and jeopardise civil and national security by following their Twitter accounts” and “retweeting their messages,” according to a story in the Guardian. She only has 159 followers on Instagram and 2,597 followers on Twitter, according to the article, making her scarcely a well-known campaigner either domestically or overseas.

Shehab is a Shi’a Muslim, and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom stated that this was a contributing factor in her imprisonment and severe punishment.

Shehab is a lecturer at Princess Nourah University, a PhD candidate at the University of Leeds in the UK, and a specialist in oral and dental medicine, according to the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR), located in Berlin. Shehab is also married with two young kids. Days before she was supposed to return to the UK, on January 15, 2021, she was reportedly detained, according to reports.

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