After three years in which he was missing before being referred to counterterrorism court in Saudi Arabia, aid worker Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan has been sentenced to 20 years in prison and another 20 years of travel ban, a sentence that has triggered a massive online backlash.
THIS IS INSANE!!!— Areej Al Sadhan أريج السدحان (@AreejASadhan) April 5, 2021
They are seeking 20 YEARS imprisonment followed by 20 YEARS of travel ban!!!!! https://t.co/rh24PSc8Dg
Tweets by Al-Sadhan's family members protesting the latest court decision, that is based on his previous online activity that was critical of Saudi policies, have gathered momentum as people from different parts of the world joined calls on Saudi Arabia to reconsider the decision and to allow more space for freedom of speech in the country.
But MBS "got the message", right @SecBlinken @JoeBiden @ChrisMurphyCT.— Sarah Leah Whitson (@sarahleah1) April 5, 2021
Now that we're only selling him "offensive" weapons he promises to be a very good prince and only persecute Saudis inside Saudi Arabia. https://t.co/8BwYKI3VND
Al-Sadhan's case has also drawn the interest of international human rights activists in addition to US officials, including the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who tweeted in condemnation of the sentence, calling it "a brutal" one.
Congress stands with @POTUS as we work to elevate the role of human rights in our relationship and hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its abuses, including with Global Magnitsky sanctions and visa denials for human rights abusers. https://t.co/UAwmZCwUQb— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) April 6, 2021
We are concerned by reports that Saudi aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan was given a 20-year prison sentence and travel ban, pending appeal, after being held with limited contact with family for three years. Exercising human rights should never be a punishable offense.— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) April 6, 2021
Moreover, the US State Department's spokesperson Ned Price has tweeted in support of Al-Sadhan's right of expression, saying that "exercising human rights should never be a punishable offense."
Al-Sadhan, who had graduated from the Notre Dame de Namur University in 2013, is believed to have run an anonymous satirical Twitter account through which he expressed his dissatisfaction with Saudi policies. He was arrested in 2018 during Saudi's crackdown on critics and dissidents.