News ID: 109011
Publish Date : 15 November 2022 - 20:46

Saudi Man Sentenced to 10 Years Over Tweets About Unemployment

RIYADH (Middle East Eye) – A Saudi man who was forcibly disappeared for his tweets has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, plus a 10-year travel ban, the UK-based rights group Alqst and his friend have told Middle East Eye.
Abdullah Jelan, 30, was sentenced by the Specialized Criminal Court over his social media activism which focused mostly on unemployment.
He isn’t the only Saudi Arabian to receive an extreme sentence over social media posts in recent months. But he is the first in a group of young Saudis who were forcibly disappeared in May and June 2021 over their anonymous online activism.
There are at least 14 such “May detainees” whose identities are known. But lawyers and rights groups working on some of their cases have told MEE they are concerned there could be many more, and said on Monday they fear that Jelan’s sentencing is only the beginning of similar fates for activists and others now on trial.
“Abdullah Jelan’s sentence, unfortunately, does not come as a surprise, and once again illustrates the mounting repression and enduring brutality of the Saudi regime,” said Lina Hathloul, head of monitoring and communications at Alqst.
“Cases like this should sound the alarm for anyone dealing with Saudi Arabia’s legal system, which without any transparency or due process guarantees, is able to sentence anyone to jail, even for peaceful tweets.”
Jelan’s friend told MEE that he found it “so silly and so stupid” that “expressing your feelings on social media can lead you to lose 10 years of your life”.
“There is no justice in that. No words can describe the feelings that I have right now. I just hope that Abdul goes out as soon as possible,” said the friend whose identity is not being shared for his own safety.
Jelan had planned to become a health educator in the kingdom and studied public health at West Chester University in Pennsylvania on a Saudi scholarship, his friend and rights groups previously told MEE.
But when he returned to the kingdom and applied to work at the health ministry, he was told that his degree wasn’t recognized and spent three years trying to get his qualifications recognized.
Meanwhile, he worked as an Uber driver, supporting his family, and also made plans to marry his fiancée whom he had met studying in the U.S. Still frustrated with his situation, he spoke out on social media anonymously.