Saudi Arabia jails women’s rights activist for 34 years – Middle East Monitor

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a women’s rights activist to 34 years in prison. Salma Al-Shehab is a PhD student at the UK University of Leeds and a mother of two. She was sentenced to what would be the longest prison sentence ever handed down to a Saudi women’s rights defender by the infamous Specialized Criminal Court (SPC), marking an escalation in Crown Prince Mohammad Bin’s crackdown on dissent. Salman in the kingdom.

According to the Washington-based human rights organization, the Freedom Initiative, Al-Shehab was detained while vacationing in Saudi Arabia in January last year, days before she planned to return home to Britain. It appears she was sentenced to six years in prison at the time for her social media activism for women’s rights.

However, after an appeal last week, the CPS increased the sentence to 34 years, along with a travel ban of 34 years. The ruling cited Al-Shehab’s social media account, where she supported women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul and called for her freedom.

“Saudi Arabia has bragged to the world about improving women’s rights and creating legal reform, but there is no doubt with this hateful phrase that the situation is only getting worse,” he said. Dr. Bethany Al-Haidari, Saudi case officer at the Freedom Initiative. She believes US President Joe Biden’s recent trip to Riyadh has strengthened Bin Salman. “It’s sadly no surprise that he feels more empowered than ever to preside over such gross rights abuses. Without real steps toward accountability, Biden’s trip to Jeddah and embrace of the international community must feel like at a green light.”

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Al-Haidari underscored the irony of celebrating the release of Loujain Al-Hathloul, even as Salma Al-Shehab was kept behind bars on the grounds that she had called for the activist’s release. “It is a model for the Saudi authorities to ensure that women activists cannot celebrate or take credit for any of their hard-won victories.”

The harsh sentence imposed on Al-Shehab raises new concerns about the SCC and Western policy towards Riyadh. The decision comes a month after Biden, who previously vowed to make the kingdom a ‘pariah’ state after the October 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, visited Jeddah and punched the crown prince .

The specialized criminal court was created in 2008 to try suspected terrorists. However, in recent years he has become notorious for rubber-stamping a crackdown on critics of the Saudi regime and human rights activists. Saudi Arabia, like its main regional allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, has been accused of militarizing the definition of terrorism, particularly since the popular Arab uprising of 2011, to include political opponents. and democracy activists. Western governments turn a blind eye to such anti-democratic movements.