West News Wire: In the midst of an increased crackdown on pro-democracy activists, Muslim preachers, and intellectuals in the country governed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a social media activist to more than a dozen years in prison.

The so-called Saudi Court of Appeals sentenced social and cultural activist Muhammad al-Jedaei, also known as Jaddo, to 18 years in prison earlier this week, according to Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a US-based rights organization founded by murdered Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Jedaei was detained nearly two and a half years ago as part of an arrest campaign, which targeted dozens of political activists, democracy advocates as well as social media activists.

The news comes as the Saudi Specialized Criminal Court has sentenced a woman to 45 years in prison for her social media posts, marking the second such case in weeks.

Nourah al-Qahtani received the heavy sentence on appeal after she was convicted of “using the internet to tear the (country’s) social fabric” and “violating public order” via social media, DAWN said.

The Washington-based group added that she was convicted under the kingdom’s so-called Counter-Terrorism and Anti-Cyber Crime Law, and shared a copy of the court document.

Earlier this month, Saudi officials sentenced women’s rights activist Salma al-Shehab to 34 years in prison.

The United Nations Human Rights Council said in a statement that the jail term handed down to Shehab, a mother of two young children and a doctoral student at the United Kingdom’s Leeds University, is the longest sentence ever given to a women’s rights defender in Saudi Arabia.

The UN rights council noted that Saudi authorities have taken advantage of the return to the international fold following the savage killing of Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 to deepen crackdown on political opponents.

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Shehab was initially sentenced to six years in prison for using an internet website to “cause public unrest and destabilize civil and national security,” the UN human Rights Council said, but after a public prosecutor asked for other alleged crimes to be taken into consideration, but an appeals court recently increased the sentence to 34 years along with a 34-year travel ban.

She was on holiday in Saudi Arabia in January 2021 and had planned to return to the United Kingdom when she was detained, according to the Freedom Initiative, a Washington-based human rights organization.

The judgment against the Saudi women’s rights activist has been denounced and her release has been demanded by a number of human rights organizations, including the Human Rights Foundation, the Freedom Initiative, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR), and ALQST for Human Rights.

Since bin Salman assumed the role of de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia in 2017, the country has detained hundreds of activists, bloggers, academics, and other political dissidents. This is despite the fact that the crackdown has drawn criticism from throughout the world.

As long as the government of the monarchy continues to forbid freedom of expression, association, and belief, Muslim academics will be put to death and activists for women’s rights will be imprisoned and tortured.

Riyadh has also revised its anti-terrorism policies in recent years to target activism.


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