Jailed Saudi woman didn’t take threats ‘seriously’

Jailed Saudi woman didn’t take threats ‘seriously’

A Saudi woman who was recently sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweeting critical of the government knew people were telling authorities about her activities but didn’t take the threats “seriously,” a relative said Thursday.

Salma Al-Chehab, a 34-year-old PhD student at the British University of Leeds, was arrested in January 2021 while on holiday in her country. The mother-of-two was sentenced to 34 years in prison on August 9 for “helping” dissidents “destabilize the state” by sharing her tweets.

According to a relative, who asked not to be identified for her safety, Salma Al-Chehab “did not take the threats of denunciation seriously.” “We’ve talked about people harassing her on Twitter and reporting her tweets to online security,” she told AFP. “But she didn’t think the authorities would be interested in anyone with less than 2,000 subscribers,” she added. Saudi Arabia has stepped up its crackdown on dissidents, including feminist activists, since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became its de facto ruler in 2017. The most ardent supporters of his rule routinely harass and condemn critical voices on Twitter. The authorities even launched “Kollona Amn” – we are all security forces in Arabic. This application, which “allows citizens and residents to play the role of a police officer”, makes it possible to testify to crimes and accidents, but also to denounce political opponents.

Salma Al-Chehab, a Shia in a Sunni-majority country who now has about 2,600 followers, tweeted mostly about women’s rights in the ultra-conservative Gulf monarchy. His sentencing comes weeks after US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, which was criticized for gross human rights abuses in the kingdom. Washington claims it regularly raises the issue of freedoms with Riyadh, and State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that “defending women’s rights should not be criminalized.” Amnesty International condemned a “scandalous” verdict and called on the authorities to release Salma Al-Chehab. Leeds University said it was “concerned” and wanted to help him.

SEE ALSO – Omar Radi, a Moroccan journalist charged over a tweet