After three years, Saudi authorities conditionally released the prominent women's rights activist.
(News Release, Washington, DC: February 10) After more than one thousand days in detention, prominent Saudi women's rights campaigner Loujain Alhathloul was released today, after enduring sexual abuse, electrocution and torture in prison. Saudi Arabia's Specialized Criminal (Terrorism) Court in Riyadh had sentenced her to nearly six years in prison for advocating for women's right to drive and to protect themselves from domestic abuse. She now faces three years of parole and a five year ban on leaving Saudi Arabia.
"We are relieved that Alhathloul is out of prison but concerned about continued restrictions on her freedom, including a suspended sentence hanging over her head," said Sari Bashi, Research Director at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN). "In the meantime, the Saudi officials responsible for her torture are walking around with impunity," Bashi said.
During the 31-year old activist's time in prison, Saudi officials tortured and sexually abused her, then offered to release her if she participated in a video denying the mistreatment. She refused. On December 28, a special Saudi terrorism court convicted her of "crimes" that included calling for an end to the Saudi male guardianship system that controls women and "inciting change" in the kingdom. The court sentenced her to five years and eight months in prison, two years and ten months of which was suspended. She had been in detention since May 15, 2018. Alhathloul is appealing the conviction.
DAWN has documented her arrest and prosecution in detail and released profiles of the Saudi officials responsible for abusing her rights. These include Saud al-Qahtani, the former advisor to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who participated in her torture, Saudi attorney general Saud al-Mojeb, who prosecuted her for her peaceful speech and activism, and Amal al-Moallimi, a former Saudi human rights commissioner and the current Saudi ambassador to Norway, who refused to act on Alhalthloul's torture complaint.
A Saudi court formally rejected the torture allegations this week, saying Alhathloul had failed to prove them. Saudi officials held Alhathloul in a secret prison for 35 days, with no cameras or oversight, and it is there she says she was tortured.
"Alhathloul will be truly free when Saudi authorities lift her travel ban and prosecute those responsible for abusing her," Bashi said.
*Photo from Lina Alhathloul's Twitter post.