A Saudi woman has been sentenced to 34 years in prison for retweeting activists through her Twitter account and sharing posts that spoke in favor of the right of women to drive. The Verge reports: Salma al-Shehab was a PhD candidate at the University of Leeds in the UK and was detained in January 2021 after returning to Saudi Arabia for a vacation. Shehab was initially sentenced to six years for using social media to “disturb public order and destabilize the security and stability of the state,” based on having reshared tweets from Saudi activists living in exile who called for the release of political prisoners in the kingdom. The incident was reported in an editorial board piece from The Washington Post, which called it “yet another glimpse at the brutal underside of the Saudi dictatorship under its crown prince and de facto head of state, Mohammed bin Salman.”
The Post reports that prosecutors in the appeal to Shehab’s case argued for a more severe punishment under Saudi cybercrime and anti-terrorism laws, leading to a drastically increased sentence of 34 years, handed down on August 8th. The Freedom Initiative nonprofit, which advocates for the rights of prisoners detained in the Middle East, states that this is the longest known sentence for a women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia.