29.01.2022

Prominent Saudi women’s rights activist sentenced to five years in jail

A leading Saudi women’s rights activist has been sentenced to five years and eight months in jail. Local media reports the Saudi terrorism court sentenced Loujain al-Hathloul, who has allegedly been tortured in prison, on Monday.

The court is said to have suspended two years and 10 months of Ms al-Hathloul’s sentence, or time spent in prison since the 31-year-old was arrested back in May 2018.

Ms al-Hathloul, who successfully campaigned to win Saudi women the right to drive, has 30 days to launch an appeal against her sentencing.

Lucy Rae, a spokesperson for Grant Liberty, a human rights charity, told The Independent the sentencing of the Nobel-prize nominated activist, who has been imprisoned since 2018, is an “international outrage”.

She added: “The murderers of Jamal Khashoggi are determined to destroy another voice for freedom.

“Loujain is a peaceful campaigner for the basic freedoms the rest of the world takes for granted. In response she has been imprisoned, tortured and abused by the Saudi authorities – yet they call her the terrorist.

“It is the Saudi regime that rules by terror. The international community must not let this stand. If human rights mean anything more than words on a page – it’s time for real action. Loujain must be released – and as Joe Biden has said, it’s time for the rest of the world to treat Saudi Arabia as the pariah it is until it ends these sickening abuses.”

Local press say Ms al-Hathloul has been charged with damaging the kingdom’s national security and trying to alter its political structure.

Human rights organisations have repeatedly called for the campaigner to immediately be released from jail – arguing the charges against her are false and must be dropped.

The University of British Columbia graduate, who recently launched a hunger strike over her jail conditions. was arrested alongside 10 other women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 – weeks before the kingdom reversed the driving ban.

At the end of last month, the campaigner’s younger sister, Lina al-Hathloul, told The Independent: “From the beginning, it has been a sham trial and a show trial so it won’t magically become a fair trial. From the beginning, it has been normal to give a day’s notice for things.

“The authorities decisions have been very impulsive. The procedures have not been respected and have not been fair. The authorities previously blocked my parents from giving Loujain her legal documents.”

She added: “I really miss my sister. Not a second goes by that I don’t miss her.”

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