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the UN calls for the release of Salma Al-Chehab, sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweets
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the UN calls for the release of Salma Al-Chehab, sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweets

The UN called on Friday August 19 for the immediate and unconditional release of a Saudi student sentenced to 34 years in prison for tweets critical of the government.

“We are appalled by the sentencing of Saudi doctoral student Salma Al-Chehab (…) in connection with a series of tweets and retweets on political and human rights issues in Saudi Arabia”said a spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office, Liz Throssell. “She should never have been arrested and charged for such facts”she added in a press release.

A 34-year prison sentence

A Saudi appeals court sentenced Salma Al-Chehab to 34 years in prison, along with a ban on leaving her country for a similar period after her release from detention, according to a judgment handed down on August 9 and of which Agence France-Presse was able to consult a copy this week. The Saudi court sentenced her for having “provided assistance”via his tweets, to political opponents who seek to “disturbing public order”according to the court document.

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“We urge the Saudi authorities to quash her conviction and release her immediately and unconditionally.”said M.me Throssell. Worrying about this “extraordinarily long sentence”the spokesperson expressed concern about the effects “deterrents” that she might have on “the critics of the government and on civil society in general”.

This condemnation, she noted, “is yet another example of Saudi authorities using the country’s anti-terrorism and anti-cybercrime laws to target, intimidate and retaliate against human rights defenders and people who express dissenting views”.

In addition to the release of Mme Al-Chehab, the UN Human Rights Office calls on the Saudi authorities to review all convictions relating to freedom of expression of human rights defenders. This includes, the statement said, “women who have been imprisoned after legitimately demanding reform of discriminatory policies, as well as religious leaders and journalists”.

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