One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists was sentenced Monday to just about six years in prison, consistent with state-linked media, under a vague and broadly worded counterterrorism law. The ruling nearly brings to an in depth a case that has drawn international criticism and therefore the ire of U.S. lawmakers.
Loujain al-Hathloul has already been in pre-trial detention and has endured several stretches of solitary . Her continued imprisonment was likely to be some extent of contention in relations between the dominion and therefore the incoming presidency of Joe Biden, whose inauguration takes place in January — around two months before what’s now expected to be al-Hathloul’s release date.
Rights group “Prisoners of Conscience,” which focuses on Saudi political detainees, said al-Hathloul might be released in March 2021 supported time served. She has been imprisoned since May 2018, and 34 months of her sentencing are going to be suspended.
Her family said during a statement she is going to be barred from leaving the dominion for five years and required to serve three years of probation after her release.
Biden has vowed to review the U.S.-Saudi relationship and take into greater consideration human rights and democratic principles. He has also vowed to reverse President Donald Trump’s policy of giving Saudi Arabia “a blank check to pursue a disastrous set of policies,” including the targeting of female activists.
Al-Hathloul was found guilty and sentenced to 5 years and eight months by the kingdom’s anti-terrorism court on charges of agitating for change, pursuing a far off agenda, using the web to harm public order and cooperating with individuals and entities that have committed crimes under anti-terror laws, consistent with state-linked Saudi news site Sabq. the fees all come under the country’s broadly worded counterterrorism law.
She has 30 days to appeal the decision .
“She was charged, tried and convicted using counter-terrorism laws,” her sister, Lina al-Hathloul, said during a statement. “My sister isn’t a terrorist, she is an activist. To be sentenced for her activism for the very reforms that MBS and therefore the Saudi kingdom so proudly tout is that the ultimate hypocrisy,” she said, pertaining to the Saudi prince by his initials.
Sabq, which said its reporter was allowed inside the courtroom, reported that the judge said the defendant had confessed to committing the crimes which her confessions were made voluntarily and without coercion. The report said the decision was issued within the presence of the prosecutor, the defendant, a representative from the government’s Human Rights Commission and a couple of select local media representatives.
The 31-year-old Saudi activist has long been defiantly outspoken about human rights in Saudi Arabia , even from behind bars. She launched hunger strikes to protest her imprisonment and joined other female activists in telling Saudi judges that she was tortured and sexually assaulted by masked men during interrogations. the ladies say they were caned, electrocuted and waterboarded. Some say they were forcibly groped and threatened with rape.
Al-Hathloul rejected a suggestion to rescind her allegations of torture in exchange for early release, consistent with her family. A court recently dismissed her allegations, citing a scarcity of evidence.
Among other allegations was that one among the masked interrogators was Saud al-Qahtani, an in depth confidante and advisor to prince Mohammed bin Salman at the time. Al-Qahtani was later sanctioned by the U.S. for his alleged role within the murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi within the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey.
While quite a dozen other Saudi women’s rights activists face trial, have hung out in prison or remain jailed, al-Hathloul’s case stood call at part because she was the sole female rights activist to be mentioned the Specialized court , which tries terrorism cases.
In some ways , her case came to symbolize Prince Mohammed’s dual strategy of being credited for introduction sweeping social reforms and simultaneously cracking down on activists who had long pushed for change.
While some activists and their families are pressured into silence, al-Hathloul’s siblings, who reside within the U.S. and Europe, consistently spoke out against the state prosecutor’s case and launched campaigns calling for her release.
The prosecutor had involved the utmost sentence of 20 years, citing evidence like al-Hathloul’s tweets in support of lifting a decades-long ban on women driving and speaking out against male guardianship laws that had led to multiple instances of Saudi women fleeing abusive families for refuge abroad. Al-Hathloul’s family said the prosecutor’s evidence included her contacts with rights group Amnesty International. She was also charged with chatting with European diplomats about human rights in Saudi Arabia , though that was later dropped by the prosecutor.
The longtime activist was first detained in 2014 under the previous monarch, King Abdullah, and held for quite 70 days after she attempted to livestream herself driving from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia to protest the ban on women driving.
She’s also spoken out against guardianship laws that barred women from traveling abroad without the consent of a blood brother , like a father, husband or brother. the dominion eased guardianship laws last year, allowing women to use for a passport and travel freely.
Her activism landed her multiple human rights awards and spreads in magazines like life style during a photo shoot next to Meghan Markle, who would later become the Duchess of Sussex. She was also a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Al-Hathloul’s family say in 2018, shortly after attending a U.N.-related meeting in Geneva about things of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia , she was kidnapped by Emirati security forces in Abu Dhabi , where she’d been residing and pursuing a master’s degree. She was then forced on a plane to Saudi Arabia , where she was barred from traveling and later arrested.
Al-Hathloul was among three female activists targeted that year by state-linked media, which circulated her picture online and dubbed her a traitor.
Follow us on Twitter: @oyogist