US raises 'significant concerns' over Saudi sentencing of activist
The repercussions of Salma Al-Shehab's sentencing to 34 years imprisonment by Saudi Arabia for tweeting in defense of women's rights continue to unfold.
The US has raised "significant concerns" with the Saudi Arabian authorities over their sentencing of female rights activist Salma Al-Shehab to 34 years in prison, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday.
"We have raised our significant concerns with the Saudi authorities," Price said during a press briefing. "We have made the point to them that freedom of expression is a universal human right to which all people are entitled and exercising. Those universal rights should never be criminalized advocacy for women's rights should of course, never be criminalized or punished."
Price said the US has noted not only the exceptional length of the sentence but also the exceptional travel ban imposed on Al-Shehab after she completes the sentence.
The Biden administration has held a number of talks with the Saudi government over the past several days, including raising concerns privately with the Saudi leadership, and continues to follow Al-Shehab’s case very closely, Price added.
Last week, the human rights organization Al Qst said in a statement that the Specialized Criminal Court of Appeals in Saudi Arabia on August 9 sentenced Al-Shehab to 34 years in prison followed by a travel ban of the same length.
Al-Shehab was arrested on January 15, 2021, and charged with providing support to individuals seeking to disrupt public order and undermine the safety of the general public and stability of the state, as well as publishing false and tendentious rumors on Twitter, as per the Saudi regime's claims.
Saudi Arabia is known for its extensive crackdown on journalists, activists, and critics of its political system.
Previous waves of detention have been widely condemned by critics and rights groups that accuse Mohammed bin Salman of utilizing anti-corruption sentiments to purge potential rivals to the crown or anyone deemed a threat, no matter how minimal, to his rule.