A Saudi court on Monday sentenced prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul to nearly six years in prison, her family said, after her conviction in a trial that has drawn international condemnation
Loujain al-Hathloul is a Nobel-prize nominated campaigner who successfully campaigned to win Saudi women the right to drive.
Saudi news outlet Sabq reported that Ms al-Hathloul, 31, was found guilty by the kingdom’s anti-terrorism court on charges including agitating for change, pursuing a foreign agenda and using the internet to harm public order.
She has 30 days to appeal the verdict after being sentenced to five year and eight months in prison. The sentence took into account that she has spent on remand after her arrest in 2018.
She could therefore be released by March 2021, with a return to prison possible if she commits any crime, the newspapers said.
Hathloul was also banned from travel for five years, her sister said, adding that Hathloul cried when she was sentenced and will appeal.
“My sister is not a terrorist, she is an activist. To be sentenced for her activism for the very reforms that MBS and the Saudi kingdom so proudly tout is the ultimate hypocrisy,” Lina said in a statement.
Timeline of events:
In March 2018 Loujain al-Hathloul was arrested in the UAE where she was studying and forcibly flown to Riyadh where she was held under house arrest before being moved to prison in May, rights groups say. She was among at least a dozen other women’s rights activists arrested, and Saudi media tarred them as traitors.
Rights groups say at least three of the women, including Hathloul, were held in solitary confinement for months and subjected to abuse including electric shocks, flogging and sexual assault. Saudi authorities have denied torture allegations.
In August 2019, Hathloul’s family said she had rejected a proposal to secure her release from prison in exchange for a video statement denying reports she was tortured in custody.
Hathloul went on hunger strike in October – her second in 2020 – to protest against the conditions of her detention. Her family said she was forced to abandon the hunger strike after two weeks because her jailers were waking her up every two hours.