| 3 March 2024, Sunday |

Saudi woman gets 45-year prison term for social media posts, rights group says

A Saudi Arabian court sentenced a woman to 45 years in jail over social media remarks, according to a rights organization, in the latest example of a crackdown on women activists after US President Joe Biden’s visit to the country.

The Saudi Specialized Criminal Court convicted Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani “likely within the last week” on charges of “using the internet to tear the (Saudi) social fabric” and “violating public order by using social media,” according to a statement issued by the Washington-based DAWN organization, citing court documents.

The Saudi government media office did not respond to a request for comment.

DAWN said little was known about Qahtani or what her social media posts said, and that it was continuing to investigate her case.

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

The new arrests occurred after Biden raised human rights concerns at a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in July, a key source of friction between Washington and its longstanding ally Riyadh.

Last Monday, the United States expressed “grave concerns” to Saudi Arabia over Shehab’s sentence, which included a 34-year travel restriction for her tweets.

The Qahtani and Shehab instances highlighted a crackdown on dissent led by Prince Mohammed, the de facto Saudi ruler, despite his support for reforms such as permitting women to drive and promoting job-creation programs.

  • Reuters