A Saudi woman has been detained for over 18 days because of a Facebook post she made. She criticised Saudi Arabia’s normalisation of relations with Israel. Now she could face up to five years in prison because of the country’s cybercrime law. According to the law, authorities can imprison anyone “who creates or transmits anything prejudicial to public order.”

Noha al-Balawi is being investigated because of a video clip she put up. She spoke about how normalisation of relations with Israel means occupation and that “there is not a single benefit for Arabs when we normalize relations with Israel.”

In her previous posts she has declared that the government should allow women to drive.

Human rights groups are standing up for her: 

A Human rights group, ALQST has been advocating for her release. They say that Saudi authorities are trying to mislead the public by denying al-Balawi’s detention. Earlier, they had promised to release her after five days, but have kept her longer. They say that al- Balawi’s detention is an obvious attempt to silence public opinion. And further added that her activism is legitimate, civil and human rights work and that the authorities have no right to detain or punish her.

The group is calling for al-Balawi’s “immediate and unconditional release”, and for authorities to “restore” her social media presence and allow her to express her opinions.

Just this week, Saudi journalist Saleh al-Shehi was sentenced by a special criminal court to five years in prison. He was accused of insulting the royal court after he discussed the corruption present in it on TV.

“The emerging leadership’s promise of openness and reform in Saudi Arabia seem to end where critical reporting and independent journalism begin,” Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said after the conviction.

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