UPDATED 7:49 AM PT – Thursday, August 18, 2022
A Saudi woman is sentenced to more than three decades in prison, which is the longest sentence ever for a peaceful activist. Last week, 33-year-old Salma al-Ahehab was sentenced to 34 years in prison because of her tweets that were critical of the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government alleged she used her social media platform to “disrupt public order” and “undermine the stability of the state.” The US State Department condemned her arrest and said freedom of expression should never be criminalized.
“Freedom of expression is a principle that we stand up for around the world any time, any government, anywhere tramples on such a principle, we speak out and we seek to defend that fundamental right,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Court documents cited that “by following their social media accounts and rebroadcasting their tweets,” Salma al-Ahehab allegedly supported persecuted individuals. The Saudi government has insisted that her actions are an effort to undermine the state.
Saudi woman given 34-year prison sentence for using Twitter! Salma al-Shehab, a Leeds University student, was charged with following and retweeting dissidents and activists – The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights condemned Shehab’s sentence https://t.co/WdMgMf4bMz pic.twitter.com/Q0nTEny3k4
— George Roussos (@baphometx) August 16, 2022
Human rights organizations have said the sentence is “unprecedented” and “unfair.” In addition to the prison sentence, Shehab is forced to shut down her Twitter account and faces a 34 year travel ban, which goes into effect upon her release.