A woman in Saudi Arabia was handed down a 45-year jail sentence Tuesday after being found guilty of posting messages on social media to tear [the country's] social fabric, it was reported.
Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani was convicted by the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC), which determined the defendant had used the internet for purposes illegal in the country.
Amnesty International has said Saudi authorities used the SCC as a tool to silence dissident voices.
Abdullah Alaoudh, a director of the Washington DC-based Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), an organization founded by the assassinated Washington Post and Middle East Eye journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said Qahtani appears to have been sentenced for simply tweeting her opinions.
It is impossible not to connect the dots between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's meeting with President [Joseph] Biden last month in Jeddah and the uptick in the repressive attacks against anyone who dares criticize the crown prince or the Saudi government for well-documented abuses, Alaoudh, head of DAWN's Gulf chapter, said, although the organization is yet to gather additional details regarding Qahtani, including her age and the circumstances of her detention.
The news comes shortly after another Saudi woman, Salma al-Shehab, was sentenced to 34 years in prison, a term denounced at the time as the longest ever sentence given to a women's rights defender in the kingdom. Shehab, a Leeds University PhD candidate and mother of two, was on holiday in Saudi Arabia in January 2021 when she was detained when she planned to return to the UK. She was first sentenced to 6 years in prison over tweets she posted calling for rights in the kingdom, but, on an appeal last week, the SCC increased the sentence to 34 years, along with a 34-year travel ban. US State Department Spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration has raised significant concerns with Saudi authorities about Shehab's case.
Over 30 human rights groups have called on the international community to pressure Riyadh to release Shehab.
Qahtani does not appear to have had an account in her name. She is believed to have been using a pseudonym to post satirical or critical content on Twitter. The platform has not commented on the case.
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