Salma al-Shehab: Saudi woman jailed over tweets launches hunger strikes

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A Saudi woman sentenced to 27 years in prison and a 27-year travel ban for her tweets has been on hunger strike for almost a week along with seven other women, the UK-based rights group Alqst said on Tuesday.

Salma al-Shehab, a mother of two, and the other women, whose identities have not been publicly disclosed, are said to be protesting unjust imprisonment and demanding their immediate release.

The dental hygienist, who is studying for a PhD at the University of Leeds in the UK, made headlines last August when she was sentenced to 34 years, with a 34-year travel ban, by the Saudi Arabian Specialized Criminal Court (SCC). after she retweeted posts in support of it. women’s right to drive, and calling for the release of activists including Loujain al-Hathloul.

Last month, after the Saudi Supreme Court ordered a retrial, the SCC reduced her sentence to 27 years in prison.

Shehab’s initial sentence was the longest in Saudi Arabia for a female human rights defender at the time, and attracted attention because she was not well known and had few followers.

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But it was only the first of a series of long sentences handed down by the same court to Saudi Arabia who did not have similar profiles on their jobs in the following months.

A week after Shehab’s shock sentence, the same court sentenced Nourah al-Qahtani to 45 years for “breaking the social fabric of the kingdom” and “violating public order” over tweets from two anonymous accounts.

Qahtani is reportedly a mother of five with health issues, but little else has been revealed publicly about her.

In October, Saad Almadi, a 72-year-old pensioner with dual Arab-American citizenship, was sentenced to 16 years in prison, and a 16-year travel ban for his tweets, including ones referring to the journalist who Jamal Khashoggi was killed, and criticizing. corruption within the kingdom.

Almadi was released earlier this month, but remains in the kingdom on a travel ban, his son said.

The SCC initially sentenced Shehab to six years in prison for using the internet to cause public unrest, but increased her sentence to 34 years and a 34-year travel ban after public prosecutor asked the court to consider other alleged crimes.

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