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Saudi woman sentenced to 34 years reported on crime app

Saudi woman sentenced to 34 years over tweets reported on Kingdom’s surveillance app
MENA
3 min read
18 August, 2022
Salma al-Shehab, who received a 34-year prison sentence over tweets, was reported on a surveillance app in Saudi Arabia ahead of her arrest and arbitrary detention.
Salma al-Shehab's detention was described as 'outrageous' by Amnesty International [source: Getty]

The Saudi woman sentenced to 34 years behind bars for tweets was reported on a crime surveillance app used in the Gulf kingdom ahead of her arrest, according to British media on Wednesday. 

Salma al-Shehab, a mother of two and a researcher at Leeds University in Britain, was told by a user on a Saudi Twitter account in November that her mildly critical response to a government post had been flagged on crime-reporting app Kollona Amn (We Are All Security), according to the Guardian

The app, available on Apple and Andriod, is described as a platform which allows citizens and expatriates to submit security and criminal reports. 

Shehab was defiant in the face of the anonymous user’s threat to report her, said the British newspaper. However, upon her visit to Saudi Arabia a few weeks later, she was investigated and locked up. 

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The Leeds University student was arrested in January 2021 during a family vacation. 

 She was held in solitary confinement for 285 days before her case was referred to court. 

The 34-year-old was initially sentenced to six years behind bars. 

Following an appeal at the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) on August 9 2022, a judge raised her sentence to 34 years in prison in what Amnesty International described as a "grossly unfair trial". Her sentence - based of charges that Shehab sought to disrupt the public order and destabilise security - was accompanied by a 34-year travel ban. 

Diana Semaan, Amnesty’s Acting Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, called the verdict "outrageous" in a statement. 

"Salma al-Shehab should never have been convicted in the first place, but to have her sentence increased from six to 34 years following an unfair trial shows that the authorities intend to use her to set an example amid their unrelenting crackdown on free speech." 

The rights group has reports of other female activists who have been detained over their comments on Twitter since Salma’s detention. 

The New Arab contacted Leeds University over Shehab’s detention, who responded with this statement: “We are deeply concerned to learn of this recent development in Salma’s case and we are seeking advice on whether there is anything we can do to support her. Our thoughts remain with Salma, her family and her friends among our close-knit community of postgraduate researchers.” 

US President Joe Biden recently met with the de factor ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), despite pledging to make the Kingdom a “pariah state” following the murder of dissent Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist murdered in the Kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, upon the directive of MbS according to CIA intelligence. 

The crown prince has also met with leaders from Turkey, Jordan and Egypt this summer, in a move that analysts say represents the thawing of tensions between Saudi Arabia and former regional rivals.

These high-level meetings occurred despite ongoing reports of human rights abuse in the Kingdom.