Saudi Arabia’s Crackdown on Dissent Now Extends Beyond Its Borders

Saudi Arabia’s Crackdown on Dissent Now Extends Beyond Its Borders
Saudi women’s rights activist Souad al-Shammary looks at her Twitter account on her mobile phone in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 7, 2016 (AP photo).

Last month, Saad Ibrahim al-Madi, a 72-year-old dual citizen of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, was sentenced by a Saudi Arabian court to 16 years in prison. His crime: 14 tweets criticizing the Saudi regime. The sentence, coupled with a 16-year travel ban at the end of his prison term, means al-Madi will be 104 years old before he will be permitted to leave Saudi soil.

Similarly, Salma al-Shehab, a 34-year-old doctoral student at Leeds University, was sentenced in August to 34 years in prison for using a Twitter account to follow and retweet critics of the Saudi regime. She, too, was handed a post-sentence travel ban, this one of 34 years, that—if it stands—would also make her over 100 years old when her punishment is over.

Neither al-Madi, who was reportedly tortured in detention, nor al-Shehab were prolific Twitter users or outspoken activists. Al-Madi’s case was based on tweets posted over a seven-year period; al-Shehab described herself to her social media following of fewer than 200 people as a dental hygienist, student, wife and mother.

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