Al-Shehi was arrested January 3, 2018, according to The Washington Post and other news reports, all of which cited local activists' posts on social media. At the time, Saudi authorities neither confirmed the arrest nor announced any formal charges against al-Shehi, according to news reports.
In his column for Al-Watan, al-Shehi frequently reported on topics such as the government's spending decisions regarding money recovered from a purported anti-corruption drive, as well as the government's economic policies and its treatment of expat workers, according to a CPJ review of the newspaper's website.
In an appearance on the Rotana Channel's show "Yahalla" on December 8, 2017, al-Shehi referred to the Saudi Arabian royal court as one of the sources of corruption in the kingdom, according to a video of the segment posted to YouTube. The journalist said that any Saudi citizen who has a contact within the royal court or someone associated with it automatically has an advantage in buying strategically located land otherwise not available to the public, according to the video.
The channel's majority owner, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, was arrested November 9, 2017, as part of a purported anti-corruption drive spurred by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, according to news reports. In September 2017, authorities under Crown Prince Mohammed began an ongoing wave of arrests of perceived dissidents--including journalists, academics, religious figures, and activists--that has continued until now and has targeted those who were previously critical of the Saudi government, as well as independent thinkers and writers who did not publicly state their support for the crown prince or his policies.
A specialized criminal court in Saudi Arabia on February 8, 2018, sentenced al-Shehi to five years in prison for "insulting the royal court," and imposed a five-year travel ban that will go into effect on his release, according to a report in the privately owned Saudi newspaper Okaz and the Qatari outlet The New Arab, citing an AP report.
CPJ could not determine where al-Shehi was being held. As of late 2018, the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, D.C., had not responded to a request for comment on al-Shehi's health condition in prison or any other details of his detention.