Saudi Arabia: UN human rights office “appalled” at long detention for Twitter user

The United Nations Human Rights Office in Geneva has sharply criticized a court decision made in Saudi Arabia against the student and women’s rights activist Salma al-Shehab. “We are appalled,” said spokeswoman Liz Throssell on Friday in Geneva. The office called on the Saudi authorities to immediately release the woman unconditionally and reverse the sentence. An appeals court had sentenced al-Shehab to 34 years in prison for her activities on Twitter. You can read details about her case here.

Mother of two, al-Shehab, whose Twitter account doesn’t even have 3000 followers, was actually working on her PhD in the UK. During a home visit she 2021 was arrested. The court convicted her, among other things, because she had positioned herself on Twitter against the oppression of women. 2020 for example, in a tweet she called for ┬╗freedom for the prisoners of the patriarchy┬ź.

The case shows authorities are using anti-terrorism and cybercrime laws to intimidate and retaliate against dissidents, Liz Throssell said.

Protest for the release of a blogger

In Interlaken, about 34 kilometers south-east of Bern, the so-called Freethinkers movement won the right to put up posters calling on Saudi tourists to stand up for the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who has been banned from traveling.

Because many tourists from Saudi Arabia traditionally visit Interlaken in summer, the movement intends to put up posters in the city. It says in Arabic, English and German that tourists can enjoy their freedom to travel, but then an appeal follows: “Please work at home to ensure that Raif Badawi can do that again.”

The blogger was released from prison in March after ten years in prison and public flogging. However, he is not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia.

The community initially prohibited the poster campaign. The city does not want “to be a platform for conflicts in the world,” as mayor Philippe Ritschard said. After complaints from the freethinkers movement and legal advice, the municipal council withdrew its decision. The action was covered by freedom of expression, it said.

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