• Sunday, Mar 07, 2021
  • Last Update : 11:46 pm

Saudi court hands prison sentence to women's rights activist

  • Published at 07:48 pm December 28th, 2020
A Saudi court on December 28, 2020 sentenced prominent activist Loujain al-Hathloul to five years
A Saudi court on December 28, 2020 sentenced prominent activist Loujain al-Hathloul to five years and eight months in prison for terrorism-related crimes AFP

Hathloul, 31, has been held since 2018 following her arrest along with at least a dozen other women's rights activist

A Saudi court on Monday sentenced prominent women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul to five years and eight months in prison, her family and local media said, in a trial that has drawn international condemnation as Riyadh faces renewed US scrutiny.

Hathloul, 31, has been held since 2018 following her arrest along with at least a dozen other women's rights activist.

The verdict poses an early challenge to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's relationship with US President-elect Joe Biden, who has criticised Riyadh's human rights record.

Hathloul was charged with seeking to change the Saudi political system and harming national security, Sabq and al-Shark al-Awsat newspapers said.

The court suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence - or most of the time already served since her arrest on May 15, 2018 - with a conditional release to follow, the newspapers and Hathloul's sister said.

She could therefore be released around end of February 2021, with a return to prison possible if she commits any crime, the newspapers.

Hathloul was also given a five-year travel ban, her sister Lina tweeted, adding that both the public prosecutor and Hathloul could appeal the judge's verdict.

United Nations human rights experts have called the charges "spurious", and along with leading rights groups and lawmakers in the United States and Europe have called for her release.

Rights groups and her family say Hathloul, who had championed women's right to drive and for ending the kingdom's male guardian system, was subjected to abuse, including electric shocks, waterboarding, flogging and sexual assault. Saudi authorities have denied the charges.

The criminal court last week cleared the prosecution of torturing Hathloul in detention, saying there was no evidence to support the allegations.

Hathloul's sentencing came nearly three weeks after a Riyadh court jailed US-Saudi physician Walid al-Fitaihi for six years, despite US pressure to release him, in a case rights groups have called politically motivated.

Foreign diplomats said the two trials aimed to send a message at home and abroad that Saudi Arabia would not yield to pressure on human rights issues.

Riyadh could also use the sentences as leverage in future negotiations with the Biden administration, one diplomat said.

Biden has said he will take a firmer line with the kingdom, an oil titan and a major buyer of American arms, than President Donald Trump, who was a strong supporter of Prince Mohammed.

Charge sheet

Hathloul rose to prominence in 2013 when she began publicly campaigning for women's right to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi officials have said the arrests of women activists were made on suspicion of harming Saudi interests and offering support to hostile elements abroad. Some of the women detainees have been released while their trials continued.

Activist Nassimah al-Saadah was sentenced to five years in prison with two suspended in late November, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Hathloul's family made her charge sheet public after her case was transferred to Riyadh's Specialised Criminal Court, originally established to try terrorism suspects but which has been used over the past decade to prosecute perceived dissidents.

The main charges against Hathloul, which carried up to a 20-year sentence, include: seeking to change the Saudi political system, calling for an end to male guardianship, attempting to apply for a UN job, attending digital privacy training, communicating with international rights groups and other Saudi activists.

Hathloul was also charged with speaking to foreign diplomats and with international media about women's rights in the kingdom, including Reuters, which declined to comment.

62
Facebook 60
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail