Upon visiting Saudi Arabia on vacation, Leeds University PhD student and mother of two children, Salma al-Shehab was arrested in 2021 for allegedly re-tweeting some posts that were disliked by the government. She was initially sentenced to three years, but this past month an Appeals Court sentenced her to 34 years in prison followed by a 34-year travel ban.
August 25, 2022
King Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Riyadh, Royal Court: 11-488-2222
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers, and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
This communication is in regard to Salma al-Shehab, a 34-year-old Leeds University PhD student and mother of two children between 4 and 6 years old. She also has worked as a dental hygienist, medical educator, and lecturer at Princess Nourah bin Abdulrahman University. She was arrested in 2021 for allegedly re-tweeting some posts that were disliked by the government. She was initially sentenced to three years, but this past month an Appeals Court sentenced her to 34 years in prison followed by a 34-year travel ban, effectively preventing her from raising her children and continuing her studies.
The Committee is concerned that this case is part of a recurring pattern of stifling free speech and the rights of women, which are both important parts of civil society. This pattern occurs even as several high-ranking officials in the government are allowed to use Twitter and while the Saudi government owns a significant stake in the company. The sentence is excessive for a nonviolent offense. The Committee is particularly concerned that she has been subjected to solitary confinement, which is akin to torture.
We write to urge you to ensure that al-Shehab is treated fairly and given access to her family, lawyers, and medical care. She should be allowed to privately communicate with the judge in her case. She should be allowed to appeal her sentence. Ideally, she should be allowed to return to the United Kingdom with her family to continue her studies and take care of her children.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. We will be closely following developments in this case.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Antony J. Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520 USA
Phone: (202) 647-4000
U.S. Embassy Riyadh
P.O. Box 94309
Phone: 00966 11-835-4000
Waleed bin Mohammad Al-Samaani
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 11 4055399 +966 11 4020311
Reema bin Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 1 (202) 537-3100
Fax: 1 (202) 295-3625