Human Lives Human Rights:
In a verdict that has sparked international outrage, a 17-year-old high school student in Saudi Arabia has been handed an 18-year prison sentence by the country’s Special Criminal Court for voicing support for political prisoners and criticizing the Saudi government on social media. The identity of the teenager is being kept confidential due to safety concerns.
The young girl was charged with “incitement against the state” and “undermining national security” for her online posts that questioned the human rights practices of the Saudi government and advocated for the release of political prisoners.
This case follows another high-profile sentencing in Saudi Arabia, where Salmi Shahab, a dental student at the University of Leeds in England, was arrested and subsequently sentenced to 34 years in prison for similar offenses, including publishing critical content on social networks.
Global human rights organizations and activists have strongly condemned these severe sentences, labeling them as clear infringements of freedom of expression and human rights. They argue that these cases underscore the escalating suppression of dissent in the kingdom and the disregard for fundamental civil liberties.
Sarah Ahmed, a representative for Amnesty International, expressed her shock at the sentencing, stating, “The sentencing of a high school girl to 18 years in prison for expressing her views on social media is a shocking and disgraceful abuse of power. It is deeply concerning to see Saudi Arabia continue to suppress freedom of expression and target those who dare to speak out against injustice.”
The Saudi government has defended its actions, claiming that these individuals were inciting instability and posing a threat to national security. They argue that the sentences were issued in line with Saudi law.
As these cases attract global attention, human rights advocates are intensifying their calls for Saudi Arabia to honor its commitments under international human rights treaties and ensure that individuals are not persecuted for expressing their views. The controversy surrounding these sentences is likely to increase pressure on the Saudi government to reassess its stance on freedom of expression and political dissent.