Loujain al Hathloul sentenced to nearly six years in prison

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Saudi human rights activist Loujain al Hathloul was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison on Monday 28 by a court specializing in anti-terrorist cases – the Saudi press reported.

Loujain al Hathloul was found guilty of “various activities prohibited by anti-terrorism law,” reported the online Sabq vehicle.

According to Saudi media, the sentence can be suspended at two years and ten months, “on condition that he does not commit a new crime in the next three years”.

The militant has been in provisional detention for more than two years, a period that was taken into account in the sentence handed down, the Saudi media reported, citing the court’s decision.

For this reason, the activist can be “released in two months”, tweeted her sister Lina.

Another source close to the family and London-based Saudi opposition group ALQST said she would be released before March.

French diplomacy today asked the Saudi authorities for “their quick release”, said a deputy spokesman for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Loujain al Hathloul was arrested in May 2018, along with other activists, just before the kingdom lifted the ban on driving for the Saudis, a reform by which these women were campaigning.

According to Saudi Foreign Minister Faysal bin Farhan al-Saud, Loujain al Hathloul, 31, is accused of having been in contact with states “hostile” to the kingdom and of transmitting confidential information.

Her family says, however, that the Saudi government has not provided any tangible evidence to support these charges.

On November 25, the activist’s family announced that their case had been transferred by a Riyadh criminal court judge to a court in charge of terrorism cases.

This specialized criminal court was created in 2008 to try terrorism cases. Since then, however, it has served to try political prisoners, as denounced by human rights organizations.

The Saudi Arabia is widely criticized in the West for its balance sheet in this area.

Fragile physical state

Loujain al Hathloul had started a hunger strike in prison on 26 October, but stopped it two weeks later, according to her family and the NGO Amnesty International.

“Loujain’s mood is good, but her physical condition remains fragile,” said her sister, Alia al Hathloul, at that time.

Loujain, a fervent activist for the cause of Saudi women, was only involved in peaceful activities in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

It has long organized campaigns for the right of Saudi women to drive and for the end of the guardianship that women have at the complete mercy of men.

A graduate of the Canadian University of British Columbia (UBC), she was arrested for “attempting to destabilize the kingdom”, just before the ban on Saudis could drive was lifted.

The pro-government media describes these activists as “traitors” for having maintained contact with diplomats and foreign NGOs.

Hathloul’s family says that during her detention, she was the victim of sexual harassment and torture. The activist reported, according to her family, that former royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani threatened to rape and kill her, which the authorities deny.

It is not the first time that this woman, a native of Al-Qassim, a conservative region located in central Saudi Arabia, has been arrested.

In late 2014, she was arrested for trying to enter Saudi Arabia, in the United Arab Emirates, while driving a car. She was released 73 days later, after an international campaign.

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