Amnesty International (AI) warned this Tuesday of the increasingly Increased persecution of freedom of expression in Saudi Arabiawhere fifteen people have been sentenced in the last twelve months to prison terms of between 10 and 45 years for criticizing the authorities on social networks.
Among them is the well-known case of Salma Al Shehabstudent at the University of Leeds and mother of two, sentenced to 34 years in prison for using her Twitter profile to defend women’s rights and activists such as Loujain al-Hathloul.
AI Head of the Middle East and North Africa, Philip LutherHe recalled that while Saudi Arabia already has a “long record” of repression against fundamental freedoms, it has now focused on “ordinary citizens” who simply peacefully exercise their rights.
Luther also denounced that the Saudi authorities have infiltrated at least one social networking company to illegally obtain information about its users, in search of possible dissidents.
These new measures against freedom of expression in the Saudi kingdom send not only the “chilling reminder” that no dissent will be toleratedbut also expose the “hypocrisy” of a country that through global events claims to defend the free flow of information online.
As of February 2023, Amnesty documented 67 cases of people who had been prosecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, of which around thirty were prosecuted for expressing their opinions peacefully. Nevertheless, the NGO affirms that the figure could be higher.
AI highlights that the “drastic increase” in the length of sentences follows the appointment of the new president of the court in charge of this type of alleged crimes, who was one of the members of the commission sent by Saudi Arabia to Turkey in October 2018 to investigate the death of the journalist Jamal Hashogi, murdered and dismembered in the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul.
In addition to the aforementioned Al Shehab, fourteen other people have been sentenced to prison terms by the Specialized Criminal Court, created to judge cases of terrorism, but which has been resolving alleged cybercrime cases.
Some of these people had a symbolic impact on networks, with barely a hundred followers, in the case of Mahdia al Marzouguia 51-year-old Tunisian woman, mother of four children, sentenced to fifteen years in prison and later deportation for commenting on her country’s political issues on Twitter.
Another case is that of Noura al-Qahtani, a 50-year-old Saudi woman who has been sentenced to 45 years in prison for expressing herself peacefully on social media. Amnesty maintains that it is the highest sentence ever imposed on a woman for crimes of this type.
more punished they are Mohammed al Rabiaactive in networks defending the right of women to drive in Saudi Arabia with a prison sentence of 17 years; Saad Ibrahim Almadi, arrested on his return from the United States for some messages on Twitter critical of the Saudi kingdom and sentenced for it to 19 years; and ten Nubian Egyptians for networking with “a banned Islamist organization.”
With information from Europa Press
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