Saudi woman sentenced to 45 years in prison for online posts, says NGO

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By Euronews  with AFP
The case comes just one month after another Saudi woman was jailed for 34 years for her activities on Twitter.
The case comes just one month after another Saudi woman was jailed for 34 years for her activities on Twitter.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Richard Drew, File   -  

A Saudi court has sentenced another woman to 45 years in prison for posts on social media, according to a human rights NGO.

Nourah al-Qahtani was jailed for "using the Internet to divide society" and "undermining public order," the Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) said in a statement.

Al-Qahtani has been detained in Saudi Arabia since July 2021 and was convicted "likely within last week," the Washington-based NGO added.

According to court documents seen by AFP, she was sentenced for "defying" the country's leaders on Twitter.

She was accused of posting "false and malicious tweets" to her 600 followers, insulting "symbols and officials of the state," and calling for "participation in activities that disturb public order and threaten security".

It comes less than a month after another Saudi woman, Salma al-Shehab, was sentenced to 34 years in prison and given a further 34-year travel ban for following and retweeting activists on Twitter.

The 34-year-old PhD student was accused of "helping" dissidents to "destabilise the state" and was arrested in December 2020 while visiting home from the University of Leeds in the UK.

The specialised criminal court, which normally handles political and national security cases, gave the sentence during al-Qahtani’s appeal of her earlier conviction.

The decades-long prison sentences have both been condemned by human rights organisations.

"The conviction of al-Qahtani ... apparently just for tweeting her views, shows how emboldened Saudi authorities feel to punish even the mildest criticism from its citizens," said DAWN's Gulf Region Research Director Abdullah Alaoudh.

“It is impossible not to connect the dots between the meeting of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and US President Joe Biden last month in Jeddah and the uptick in the repressive attacks against anyone who dares criticise the crown prince or the Saudi government for well-documented abuses,” Alaoudh added.

Saudi Arabia has toughened its crackdown on opponents and activists since MBS became the country's de facto leader in 2017.

Washington said last week that it had raised "significant concerns" with Saudi Arabia over the sentencing of al-Shehab under the kingdom's broad counterterrorism and cybercrime laws.