Editors' Choice Middle East World

Mon 28 December 2020:

One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists was sentenced on Monday to nearly six years in prison under a vague and broadly-worded law aimed at combating terrorism, according to state-linked media. Loujain al-Hathloul’s case as well as her imprisonment for the past two and a half years, have drawn criticism from rights groups, members of the U.S. Congress and European Union lawmakers.

The Prisoners of Conscience group, however, said on Twitter that the court suspended two years and 10 months of the sentence.

Al-Hathloul was arrested, along with a number of female rights activists in May 2018 on suspension of “harming the kingdom’s interests.”

State-linked Saudi news outlet Sabq reported that al-Hathloul was found guilty by the kingdom’s anti-terrorism court on charges including agitating for change, pursuing a foreign agenda, using the internet to harm public order and cooperating with individuals and entities that have committed crimes according to anti-terror laws. She has 30 days to appeal the verdict.

Sabq reported that the judge said the defendant had confessed to committing the crimes and that her confessions were made voluntarily and without coercion. The judge said the verdict was issued in the presence of the prosecutor, the defendant, a representative from the government’s Human Rights Commission and a handful of select local media representatives.

As al-Hathloul served most of her sentence since her arrest, she could be released after three months, the Prisoners of Conscience group said.

Last week, the Saudi Sabq newspaper said the court had turned down a complaint by the activist about being subjected to torture and sexual harassment in prison.

Several International rights watchdogs accused the Saudi authorities of jailing the female activists for campaigning to defend women’s rights in the kingdom.

A Saudi activist who declined to be identified due to fears for her family’s safety told Agency France-Presse that al-Hathloul has come to represent the kingdom’s modern feminists. “Loujain is the young rebel woman … who embodies global values… and calls out the (lies) of the state,” she remarked.

Another Saudi activist described al-Hathloul as an “incredibly fierce and resolute” champion of women’s rights.




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