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Saudi law professor arrested for criticising kingdom's human rights record: Report

Professor denounces Saudi Arabia’s detention of rights activists, before he himself is arrested
Entrance to King Saud University in Riyadh (Wikipedia)

Saudi Arabian authorities arrested a law professor who teaches at King Saud University in the capital Riyadh, hours after he criticised the kingdom’s human rights record, media outlet Arabi21 reported.

Speaking at the Riyadh International Book Fair on Thursday, Anas al-Mazrouee denounced Saudi Arabia’s arrest and detention of women’s rights and other human rights activists.

He criticised the kingdom’s crackdown on dissent, calling out the government for claiming it champions women’s rights while it was arresting women activists.

Abdullah al-Ouda - son of detained Saudi cleric Salman al-Ouda, who has been held since 2017 - said that the professor was arrested shortly after giving his talk at the fair.

News of Mazrouee’s arrest soon circulated on social media, as videos of his speech prior to his arrest went viral.

Translation: Saudi law professor, Anas al-Mazrouee, was arrested a few hours after making brave remarks about need to reframe human rights narrative in the kingdom..he called for release of political prisoners and encouraged attendees to question status quo on governance

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia released three women activists from jail following a court hearing.

Rokaya al-Muhareb, Aziza al-Yousef and Eman al-Nafjan were arrested and detained last year as part of a crackdown on dissent.

Relatives and a human rights organisation said the women had been released, and that others currently held would be freed on Sunday. The conditions of their release remained unclear.

The activists, including blogger Nafjan and university professor Hatoon al-Fassi, have led years-long campaigns against the kingdom's ban on women driving, only to be arrested last summer just before the landmark decision to lift restrictions on female motorists.

Their detentions came as part of a sweeping crackdown that has seen vocal figures, including clerics and scholars, locked up in a bid to crush any potential opposition.

The women, initially accused of harbouring links to foreign intelligence agencies and dubbed by state media as traitors and "agents of embassies", were first expected to appear before a court set up to handle terrorism-related cases. 

A last-minute shift saw their referral to a criminal court, without any explanation, after months of Western criticism.

Saudi Arabia has been subjected to global criticism over its violations of human rights and clampdown on critics notably since the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul last October.