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Leeds student jailed in Saudi Arabia is being used ‘to set an example’ and must be ‘immediately released’

Amnesty International stated that a Leeds University student is currently being held in Saudi Arabia after he allegedly spread “false Rumours” by retweeting posts of dissidents.

Salma Al-Shehab received a 34-year sentence under the kingdom’s cybercrime and counterterrorism laws. The ruling was issued on Monday and condemned by the organization as a “cruel, unlawful” punishment.

Lawyers and activists condemn the conviction against the activist and mother-of-2, which is shocking even under Saudi justice standards.

Amnesty International condemned the “outrageous” decision, and demanded that she be released “unconditionally”.


A 34-year-old Saudi woman was married to a father of two boys aged six and four. She had been sentenced for using the internet “to cause public unrest and destabilise national and civil security”.

This was however increased when an appeals court was requested to look at other alleged crimes.

Amnesty’s Diana Semaan stated that Salma Al-Shehab should not have been convicted. However, her sentence was increased from 6 to 34 years after an unfair trial. This shows that authorities are trying to use her as an example in their relentless crackdown on free speech.

Saudi Arabia: More

She must be unconditionally and immediately released. She said that she must be allowed to reunite with her family in Saudi Arabia and continue her education in the UK.

“Saudi Arabia must stop its incessant crackdown against women’s rights activists, and anyone else who dares to speak their minds.”

European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR), previously described Ms. al-Shehab’s sentence as creating a “dangerous precedent for woman activists and human rightsdefenders”.

Ms. Al-Shehab was also issued a 34-year travel ban. She was on holiday in Saudi Arabia when she was stopped by authorities for using Twitter to support Loujain al–Hathloul and other women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia.

Image Ms al Shehab pictured in 2014

Continue reading: University of Leeds “deeply concerned” for student sentenced to 34 years imprisonment

According to Amnesty International, the PhD student was kept in prolonged isolation for 285 days before being brought to trial. This violated international standards as well as Saudi Arabia’s Law of Criminal Procedures.

The organisation also claimed that she was denied access to legal counsel throughout her pre-trial confinement, including interrogations.

Ms. Al-Hathloul was sentenced to prison for “spying with foreign party” and “conspiring against a kingdom”, but she was released conditionally in 2021.

Ms. al-Shehab’s sentence is still unacknowledged by Kingdom. It comes amid Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman crackdown on dissent, even though his rule gave women the right of driving and other new freedoms within the ultraconservative Islamic Nation.

Prince Mohammed was elected to power in 2017 and has been criticised for his arrests of dissidents, activists, princes, and businessmen.


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