A prominent women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to almost six decades in prison Monday under a vague counterterrorism law.
Loujain al-Hathloul was in pre-trial detention and her case has attracted international criticism.
Al-Hathloul was found guilty and sentenced to five decades and eight months from the kingdom’s anti-terrorism courtroom on charges that included pursuing a foreign agenda and cooperating with people that committed offenses under anti-terror legislation, state-linked Saudi news website Sabq explained.
Another Muslim women’s rights activist, Maya’s al-Zahrani, has been issued the same sentence for an identical collection of fees from the Specialised Criminal Court, which had been set up to deal with terrorism cases, according to local press reports on Monday.
Al-Hathloul was imprisoned in May 2018; her loved ones said that she is going to be barred from leaving Saudi Arabia for five decades and needed to serve three decades of probation.
“What they’ve done is to currently say to the world they believe women’s rights activism to be an act of terrorism,” explained Rothna Begum, a senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The Saudi government have done this previously with human rights activists, which we’ve seen being sentenced or being treated as terrorists. But today we’re seeing the same thing being done with women’s rights activists. Hence that the hypocrisy is remarkably loud.”
The 31-year-old Saudi activist was outspoken about individual rights and campaigned to provide women the right to drive. She was vocal about man guardianship laws.
The kingdom’s ban on women’s driving stopped in 2018 and Saudi Arabia eased guardianship legislation this past year, allowing girls to apply for a passport and travel freely without being accompanied by a male relative.
She launched hunger strikes to protest her detention. She’s said she had been tortured and sexually attacked by masked men in interrogations.
Al-Hathloul refused an offer to rescind her allegations of torture in exchange for early release, by her loved ones. A court dismissed her allegations, citing a lack of proof.
Her situation has come to symbolize Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s double strategy of being blamed for ushering in sweeping social reforms and concurrently cracking down on activists who had pushed for change.
She was initially detained in 2014 and held 70 days later trying to Livestream herself forcing her to protest the ban on women driving.