Urgent Action: RELEASE ACTIVIST JAILED FOR 34 YEARS FOR TWEETS (Saudi Arabia: UA 74.22)
August 19, 2022
On August 9, 2022, the Specialized Criminal Court in the Saudi capital, Riyadh sentenced, after a grossly unfair trial, Salma al-Shehab, a Saudi activist and academic from Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a minority to 34 years in prison followed by a 34-year travel ban. She was accused, among other things, to “disturbing public order” for using Twitter and retweeting activists who support women’s rights. According to court documents reviewed by Amnesty International, she was detained in solitary confinement for 285 days before she was brought to trial. She was also denied access to legal representation throughout her pre-trial detention, including during interrogations. The Saudi authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Salma al-Shehab and quash her conviction.
Please take action as-soon-as possible. This Urgent Action expires on October 14, 2022.
Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.
Click here to let us know the actions you took on Urgent Action 74.22. It’s important to report because we share the total number with the officials we are trying to persuade and the people we are trying to help.
His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Office of His Majesty the King Royal Court,
Riyadh Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 11 403 3125,
I am alarmed to learn that Salma al-Shehab, an academic and activist, was sentenced to 34 years in prison followed by a 34-year travel ban, by the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on August 9, 2022.
On January 14, 2021, she was arrested at the General Directorate of Investigations after she was called in for interrogation a few days before she was due to go back to the United Kingdom to continue her PhD studies at the University of Leeds.
Salma al-Shehab’s trial began on October 25, 2021, and according to court documents reviewed by Amnesty International, she was detained in solitary confinement for 285 days before she was brought to trial, in violation of international standards and Saudi Arabia’s own Law on Criminal Procedures. She had no access to legal representation throughout her pre-trial detention, including during interrogations.
In mid-2022, Salma al-Shehab was initially sentenced to six years in prison under the counter-terrorism law. At her appeal trial, the prosecution demanded a harsher punishment. Her sentence was increased to 34 years based on the discretion of the judge, after her initial sentence was overturned and she was convicted of “supporting those who seek to disrupt public order, destabilize security and the stability of the state” and publishing tweets that “disturb public order, destabilize the security of society and the stability of the state” under the counterterrorism and anti-cybercrime laws.
I urge you to immediately and unconditionally release Salma al-Shehab and quash her conviction as she is being held solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression. I also call on you to stop equating free speech with “terrorism”, and repeal or substantially amend the counterterrorism and anti-cybercrime laws that criminalize dissent and enact new laws that are fully compatible with international human rights law and standards.