Silenced

Saudi woman facing 5 years in prison over viral Facebook post

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A Saudi woman has reportedly been detained for 18 days and counting over Facebook posts she made criticizing Saudi Arabia’s normalization of relations with Israel. Noha al-Balawi could face up to five years in prison under the country’s cybercrime law, which allows for imprisonment of anyone “who creates or transmits anything prejudicial to public order,” according to human rights group ALQST. Despite an earlier promise from Saudi authorities that Al-Balawi would be released after five days, ALQST said that she has remained in detention since entering police custody on January 23.

Al-Balawi is reportedly being investigated over a viral video clip in which she declared that “normalization means accepting the occupation” and that “there is not a single benefit for Arabs when we normalize relations with Israel.” She is also allegedly being questioned over past posts in which she declared that the government should allow women to drive. Last September, the Saudi government announced that it would begin granting women driver’s licenses this coming June. ALQST has described al-Balawi’s imprisonment as an “obvious attempt” at silencing her, and called for her “immediate and unconditional release” as well as for the restoration of her social media accounts.

News of Al-Balawi’s detention came on the heels of the Thursday sentencing of Saudi journalist Saleh al-Shehi, who was given five years in prison for “insulting the royal court” by discussing corruption during a January television appearance. According to Human Rights Watch, Al-Shehi is the most recent of a number of peaceful activists to be tried by the Specialized Criminal Court, which is supposed to serve as the country’s terrorism tribunal.

Read the full story at Al Jazeera.

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