Saudi Arabia temporarily releases some detained women’s rights activists

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Saudi Arabia has temporarily released a handful of women’s rights activists who had been detained on charges related to their advocacy for greater freedom within the kingdom. 

The Washington Post, citing a London-based Saudi human rights group and other activists, reported that four women were released on Thursday. The women are among a group of 11 who are standing trial in Riyadh. 

Their arrests came as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began imposing a stronger crackdown on perceived opponents to the kingdom’s ruling family in 2018. 

ALQST, the London-based human rights group, said that Hatoon al-Fassi, Amal al-Harbi, Maysaa al-Manea and Abeer Namankani were the four women released. The Post noted that an additional three women who are defendants in the same trial were released in March. 

Several women have come forward and said they were tortured while in custody. Authorities in Saudi Arabia have denied the accusation. 

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized the Saudi kingdom’s arrests of the women’s rights advocates. The Middle East Studies Association in March condemned the arrest of al-Fassi, saying in a letter that the professor’s arrest was a travesty of justice. 

“We are outraged that Dr. al-Fassi was arrested, has spent ten months in jail, and now faces trial for her entirely peaceful efforts on behalf of women and their rights in Saudi Arabia,” the letter stated. “We call for the dropping of all charges and her immediate release from prison.”

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