‘DUTY TO ACT’:
University of Leeds student jailed for ‘causing public disorder’ and ‘destabilizing security’ after supporting women’s rights activists on Twitter
Jailing a student for 34 years for standing up for women’s freedom contradicts Saudi Arabia’s claim to improve human rights, a British lawmaker has said.
UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Secretary Liz Truss has been asked to intervene in the ‘outrageous’ case of a University of Leeds student jailed in Saudi Arabia for 34 years for its use from Twitter.
Hilary Benn, a Labor MP, said the UK had a ‘duty’ to press for the release of Salma al-Shehab, a Saudi national who lived in Britain and was arrested after returning to surrender visiting his family last year.
Al-Shehab, who has two young children, was first jailed for three years for “causing public disorder” and “destabilizing civil and national security” after appearing to support activists and dissidents on Twitter.
However, an appeals court last week handed down a new sentence – 34 years in prison followed by a 34-year travel ban – after a prosecutor asked the court to look into other alleged crimes. She described the abuse and harassment behind bars, telling a Saudi court that she was subjected to interrogations after being given drugs that left her exhausted.
Amnesty International has called for his “immediate and unconditional release”.
Benn said in a letter to Truss that the UK had to intervene and asked her to “make representations to the Saudi authorities” for al-Shehab “so that she can be released to return to her family and her studies” .
The case is “completely at odds with Saudi Arabia’s claim to improve human rights”, he wrote.
“It appears that she has only used her Twitter account to support women’s rights and greater freedom, and to demand the release of activists imprisoned in Saudi Arabia,” the letter reads.
“Saudi Arabia is saying, ‘We are reforming the country.’ You can’t on the one hand say ‘we’re opening up and liberalizing the country’ and on the other hand send a woman to jail for voicing her views on Twitter,” Benn wrote. “I think we have a duty, in as citizens and countries, to speak out wherever human rights are violated and violated in this way.The fact that she was a student at one of our universities adds to this obligation.
He called the case “shocking and outrageous”.
The University of Leeds said: ‘We are deeply concerned about recent developments in Salma’s case and are seeking advice on whether there is anything we can do to support her. Our hearts go out to Salma, her family and her friends among our close-knit community of postgraduate scholars.
Al-Shehab was in his final year of doctoral studies at the School of Medicine, focusing on improving dental care for patients with disabilities.
Saudi Arabia has sought to enhance its global reputation in recent years through tourism campaigns and hosting major sporting events, including golf championships and boxing matches.
He took center stage over the weekend when he hosted a heavyweight title fight between British boxer Anthony Joshua and Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday night. The fighters were reportedly paid four times more to fight at Jeddah Superdrome than they would have received at Wembley Stadium.
Critics said the events were part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to “whitewash its reputation” and distract from its poor human rights record, a strategy called “sportswashing”.
In an interview with the Today program on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who represents Joshua, appeared to dismiss the criticism. He said there were ‘a lot of people who have opinions that don’t see things with their own eyes’, and that Jeddah today was ‘completely unrecognizable’ compared to what it was a while ago. three years.
“People are talking about sportwashing. If people want to use sport, want to use boxing to bring about change, then I’m all for it,” he said.
Bethany al-Haidari, Saudi case officer at Freedom Initiative, a US-based human rights group, said al-Shehab’s case was “shocking”, but “one of hundreds “.
“She’s just the one the world gets to see. But it’s a bigger issue,” she said.
“There has been a global campaign by the Saudi government to say things are changing and the country is reforming, but that is simply not true. In fact, it’s the opposite of what we saw on the ground,” al-Haidari said.
The abuse cases are not limited to Saudi nationals, she said, adding that those who travel to Saudi Arabia for sporting and other events could be at risk.
“Last year alone there was one case where a US citizen was removed from a flight and detained. You never know what can happen, especially if you have spoken about human rights before or if you are a minority. It is not a predictable regime,” she said.
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