Saudi court sentences woman to 45 years for social media posts

The judge also ruled that al-Qahtani "offended the public order through the information network."
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RIYADH: A Saudi Arabian court on Wednesday sentenced a woman to 45 years in prison for allegedly harming the country through her social media activity, the second such case this month.

Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani, who hails from one of the biggest tribes in Saudi Arabia and has no apparent history of activism, was sentenced to prison to almost half a century in prison after the judge accused her of "disrupting the cohesion of society" and "destabilizing the social fabric" via social media, Fox News reported.

The judge also ruled that al-Qahtani "offended the public order through the information network." It remains unclear what al-Qahtani posted online or where her hearing was held.

She was taken into custody on July 4, 2021, according to Fox News citing Washington-based human rights watchdog Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), which is critical of the kingdom.

"This seems like the beginning of a new wave of sentences and convictions by new judges who have been placed in the specialized criminal court," Abdullah Alaoudh, Research Director for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at DAWN, said about the case.

Alaoudh says that al-Qahtani was jailed for "simply tweeting her opinions." The sentence follows an international outcry over a similar incident when a 34-year woman was sentenced to prison.

"It's very hard to ignore the fact that we are seeing these sentences as (Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) has received increased legitimacy in the international realm," said Allison McManus, the group's research director.

The social media sentences have renewed attention on Prince Mohammed's crackdown on dissent, even as the ultraconservative Islamic nation has granted women new freedoms like the right to drive, the Washington Post reported.

President Joe Biden travelled to the oil-rich kingdom in July for a meeting with Prince Mohammed, in which he said he confronted him about human rights.

Biden came to office vowing to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" over the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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