Human Rights

Top Saudi women’s rights activist gets nearly six-year sentence

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A Saudi court on Monday sentenced women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul to just under six years in prison, citing an anti-terrorism law frequently criticized by human rights groups.

Al-Hathloul, a leader in the movement to allow women to drive in the kingdom, has been detained for more than 2 1/2 years since her 2018 arrest on charges of “attempting to destabilize the kingdom.”

The Saudi anti-terrorism court sentenced her to five years and eight months after convicting her of several charges, including “pursuing a foreign agenda” and “using the Internet to harm public order,” according to The Associated Press, which cited state-connected media outlet Sabq.

Thirty-four months of al-Hathloul’s sentence was suspended, and she could be released by March with time served, according to the human rights group Prisoners of Conscience. She has 30 days to appeal the sentence. The judge in the case has claimed al-Hathloul confessed to the charges without coercion, according to the AP.

Human Rights Watch blasted the trial in mid-December, calling it a “mockery of a legal process.” Her family has accused the court of altering the charging document without informing her properly, posting the two documents online for comparison.

“We are extremely alarmed to hear that Ms. Al-Hathloul, who has been in detention for more than two years on spurious charges, is now being tried by a Specialized Terrorism Court,” Elizabeth Broderick, chair of the United Nations working group on discrimination against women and girls, said in a statement earlier this month, according to Reuters.

“We call once again on Saudi Arabia to immediately release Ms. Al-Hathloul, a woman human rights defender who has greatly contributed to advancing women’s rights in a country where gender discrimination and stereotyping are deeply entrenched in the fabric of society,” she added.


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