Saudi Arabia’s authorities have imprisoned fitness instructor Manahel al-Otaibi. And for what? Tweeting in support of women’s rights.

UPDATE: On the 30th of April, Manahel al- Otaibi was sentenced to 11 years in prison because of her choice of clothing and support for women’s rights. The decision directly contradicts the authorities’ narrative of reform and women’s empowerment. Saudi Arabia’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release her.

On 16 November 2022, Saudi authorities arrested 29-year-old Manahel al-Otaibi. She has been forcibly disappeared ever since.

Why? She was charged with violating the Anti-Cyber Crime Law due to her tweets in support of women’s rights. Her case has been referred from the Criminal Court in Riyadh to the Specialized Criminal Court, set up to try terrorism-related crimes.

The Court is notorious for carrying out grossly unfair trials and handing out harsh sentences, including the death penalty, for individuals peacefully expressing themselves online. The Saudi authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Manahel al-Otaibi and drop the charges against her.

In Saudi Arabia, women’s rights activists are often detained and put through prolonged and unfair trials.

As of January 2024, Amnesty International has documented the cases of 69 individuals who had been prosecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Of those, 32 were prosecuted for peacefully expressing their opinions on social media. The real number of such prosecutions is likely much higher.

Thanks to people taking action, Saudi Arabian activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released from prison after nearly three years locked up in horrific conditions. She campaigned for women’s rights, including the right to drive.

No one should be imprisoned for tweeting about women’s rights. Take action today and demand the immediate and unconditional release of Manahel al-Otaibi.