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

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

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.

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.

"Much less is known about Nourah al-Qahtani and DAWN is continuing to investigate her case."

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.