Saudi extends detention of women’s rights activist for 17 years

In 2018, Rabiah has called for an end to Saudi Arabia's repressive guardianship laws and has also campaigned to lift the kingdom's longstanding ban on women driving.

Riyadh: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has extended the prison sentence of women’s rights activist Mohammed Al-Rabiah, to 17 years right before the end of the term he is serving.

The authorities arrested Al-Rabiah on May 15, 2018, as part of a campaign of arrests targeting women, clerics, and human rights defenders in the Kingdom.

On April 20, 2021, the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Saudi Arabia sentenced Mohammed al-Rabiah to six and a half years in prison, on charges related to his activism and defence of women’s rights.

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Al-Rabiah was scheduled to be released in September, but he was re-tried before his expected release date and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

For its part, Freedom Initiative, an independent human rights organization based in the United States, that advocates for the freedom of unjustly detained prisoners across the Middle East and North Africa, confirmed that “Al-Rabiah was sentenced to 17 years in prison.”

In 2018, Rabiah called for an end to Saudi Arabia’s repressive guardianship laws and has also campaigned to lift the kingdom’s longstanding ban on women’s driving.

While in prison, the MENA Rights Group monitoring his case said he was subjected to brutal torture, including being held in a small closet for several days, hung upside down by his feet and beaten until he lost consciousness.

The new sentence against Rabiah is the latest of what the Freedom Initiative calls “exceptionally harsh” sentences handed down in the kingdom since August 2022.

They point to Salma Al-Shehab, a Leeds University student and mother of two, and Noura bint Saeed Al-Qahtani, a mother of five, who has been sentenced to 34 years in Prison for tweets critical of the Saudi government.

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