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Saudi government releases prominent women’s rights activist from jail

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Saudi Arabia’s government released Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent women’s rights activist, from detention on Wednesday after more than 2 1/2 years of imprisonment.

Al-Hathloul’s sister, Lina, confirmed the release in a tweet showing a video call between the two family members. Her detention lasted 1,001 days.

The 31-year-old activist was one of the leading campaigners for women’s right to drive in the country, a right that was only extended in 2018. She was detained by Saudi agents in the United Arab Emirates in 2018 on charges of conspiring against the government and sentenced to nearly six years in prison. Family members have alleged that she was tortured during her detention.

“This is wonderful news! We’ve been pushing for this for so long,” tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Now Saudi Arabia must allow her to leave the country and release the rest of the women’s rights activists still in prison.”

“While they’re at it, Saudi should stop murdering and dismembering dissidents, allowing marital rape, blockading, starving, and slaughtering thousands of Yemeni civilians, fueling the climate crisis, discriminating against religious minorities and allowing modern day slavery,” she added.

PEN America, a nonprofit that supports free expression for writers around the world, warned in a statement that al-Hathloul’s release was not a guarantee of total freedom and vowed to continue to support her writing.

“What a sweet day for Loujain, to finally be reunited with her family and get a glimpse of the freedom she so richly deserves. But let me be clear. We have yet to be assured this is true freedom. Loujain may still have draconian limitations on her movement and, most poignantly, on her ability to speak out,” said CEO Suzanne Nossel.

“As she has shown—despite torture, despite abuse, despite being held for over 1,000 days—she is a resiliant, bold defender of the rights of all humanity, and surely such stipulations will not silence her. But we will not relent until she is granted full freedom to speak, work, travel, and live freely,” Nossel added.

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