Beirut – A Saudi app that lets ordinary people "play the role of a police officer" may have alerted authorities to a student's tweet whose 34-year prison sentence has drawn international condemnation.
Just weeks after the verdict against Salma al-Shahab, a doctoral candidate at the University of Leeds in britain, rights groups say another woman was sentenced to 45 years for her social media posts.
According to Washington-based human rights group DAWN, Naurah bint Saeed al-Qahtani was convicted of "using the internet to tear apart the (Saudi) social fabric".
While it is unclear how Qahtani's positions were traced, rights groups believe shahab was reported by citizens using Colonna Amn, a government app that lets citizens alert authorities everyday.
"I went to your account, and I found it pathetic and full of garbage, I took several pictures and I sent them to Colonna Aman," a user posted below a comment from Shehab, a screenshot reviewed.
Colonna Amn, which means "we are all security" in Arabic, has been downloaded more than a million times from the Google Play Store.
Despite billing itself as a utility app to speed up the "rescue mission,"rights campaigners say it helps authorities cast a wider net for activists and dissidents seen as a threat to the Saudi government.
"The problem in Saudi Arabia is that their understanding of crime is much broader than is recognisable under international law," said Rothna Begum, a women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW). "
The Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information could not be reached for comment, but officials have previously said the country does not have political prisoners.