8 detained Saudi woman on hunger strike, rights group says

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Eight Saudi women, including prominent activist Salma Al-Shehab, have launched a hunger strike in protest of their “arbitrary detention” and “sham trials”, a human rights organisation has said.

AlQST said Al-Shehab, who is serving a 27-year prison sentence, has been on hunger strike with other female detainees since 23 March.

In January, Amnesty International called on King Salman Bin Abdulaziz to “unconditionally” release Al-Shehab, describing her trial as “extremely unfair”.

“Two years have passed since the Saudi activist and doctoral student, Salma Al-Shehab, was imprisoned because of her peaceful tweets in support of women’s rights,” Amnesty said on Twitter at the time.

The organisation pointed out that the verdict against Al-Shehab came in the wake of a grossly unfair trial, as she was accused of committing crimes that included disturbing public order by using her Twitter account and republishing tweets by activists supporting women’s rights.

The organisation said according to court documents it had reviewed, Al-Shehab was held in solitary confinement for 285 days and was denied legal representation throughout her pre-trial detention, including during her interrogation sessions.

In January 2021, Al-Shehab had been studying for a PhD in Leeds University in the UK when she was arrested as she returned to Saudi Arabia for a holiday.

She was sentenced to six years in prison in August 2022. This was later increased to 34 years, and then lowered to 27 years in January 2023.

READ: Saudi judges face death penalty for being ‘too soft’ on women’s rights activists 


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