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Saudi woman jailed for 45 years for social media posts

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Saudi woman jailed for 45 years for social media posts

  • Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani jailed for ‘violation of public order’
  • Court convicted her of ‘using the internet to tear apart the Saudi social fabric’
  • Comes after Leeds student sentenced to 34 years in prison for retweeting dissidents

A Saudi woman has been sentenced to 45 years in prison for her social media posts, a human rights group says.

Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani was convicted “probably last week” by the Saudi Specialized Criminal Court on charges of “using the internet to tear apart the (Saudi) social fabric” and “violating public order by using social media.” ‘.

The Washington-based DAWN organization said little was known about Qahtani or what her social media posts were saying, and it was continuing to investigate her case.

A Saudi woman has been sentenced to 45 years in prison for her social media posts

Qahtani's sentencing came a few weeks after Salma al-Shehab (pictured) was sentenced to 35 years in prison

Qahtani’s sentencing came a few weeks after Salma al-Shehab (pictured) was sentenced to 35 years in prison

Qahtani’s conviction came a few weeks after Salma al-Shehab, a mother of two and a PhD student at the University of Leeds in Britain, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for following and retweeting dissidents and activists on Twitter.

The latest cases came after Biden raised concerns about human rights, a key sore point in relations between Washington and its traditional ally Riyadh, during his July meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Washington said last week it had expressed “significant concerns” about Shehab’s conviction, including a 34-year travel ban on her tweets.

The Qahtani and Shehab cases underscored a crackdown on dissent driven by Prince Mohammed, the de facto Saudi ruler, though he favored reforms such as allowing women to drive and pushing projects to create jobs.

Relatives of Saudi political prisoners initially hoped Biden’s visit would help release loved ones held captive as part of the crackdown.

Washington said last week it had expressed

Washington said last week it had expressed “significant concern” with Saudi Arabia over Shehab’s conviction (pictured in 2014 in Riyadh)

Abdullah al-Aoudh, DAWN’s Gulf Region Research Director, said Saudi authorities in both the Shebab and Qahtani cases used “misleading” laws to attack and punish Saudi citizens for criticizing the government on Twitter.

But this is only half the story, as even the Crown Prince would not allow such vindictive and excessive punishment if he believed that these actions would be met with meaningful censure by the United States and other Western governments. Obviously they are not,” Aoudh said in DAWN’s statement.

Saudi officials say the kingdom has no political prisoners. “We have prisoners in Saudi Arabia who have committed crimes and who have been tried and found guilty by our courts,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters last month.

“The idea that they would be described as political prisoners is ridiculous,” he added.

Tensions over the human rights situation in oil-rich Saudi Arabia have strained ties with the United States, including over women’s rights and the 2018 murder and mutilation of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

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