The sentencing of doctoral student Salma Al-Shehab to 34 years in jail by Saudi Arabia has created wide spread protest with Humanitarian organisations coming up against it, demanding her early release.
The mother of two young children, Ms. Al-Shehab, was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2021 while on holiday from her studies at Leeds University in the United Kingdom. Saudi Arabia gave the verdict in connection with a series of tweets and retweets on political and human rights issues in Saudi Arabia. She was accused of spreading false information and aiding dissidents seeking to disrupt public order with her tweets, retweets and follows on Twitter.
WHO IS SALMA AL-SHEHAB
Al-Shehab was a PhD student at Leeds University. She also worked as a dental hygienist, medical educator and lecturer at Saudi Arabia’s Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University.
She seemed to have supported the case of Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent Saudi feminist activist who was previously imprisoned, is alleged to have been tortured for supporting driving rights for women
SALMA AL SHEHAB; THE VERDICTS
Shehab had publicly tweeted about the rights of Saudi women in the country’s typically strict and traditional Sunni Muslim culture. She was initially given a six-year sentence in June, including three years that were suspended and a travel ban of the same length. However, the appeals court toughened the sentence to 34 years.
SALMA AL SHEHAB; UN
Expressing outrage over the sentence, UN human rights office, OHCHR, spokesperson Liz Throssell said, “we urge the Saudi authorities to quash her conviction and release her immediately and unconditionally,” she said. “She should never have been arrested and charged in the first place for such conduct”.
The extraordinarily lengthy sentence adds to “the chilling effect” among Government critics and civil society at large, the statement continued, describing it as “yet another example of Saudi authorities weaponising the country’s counter-terrorism and anti-cybercrime laws to target, intimidate and retaliate against human rights defenders and those who voice dissent”.
“Saudi Arabia must not only release Al-Shehab so that she can re-join her family, but also review all convictions stemming from free expression against human rights defenders, including women who were jailed after they legitimately demanded reforms of discriminatory policies, as well as religious leaders and journalists,” said Ms. Throssell.
OHCHR also urged the Saudi Government to establish “a robust legislative framework in line with international human rights law” to uphold the rights to freedom of expression and association, and the right of peaceful assembly for all.