Skip to main content

Trial of prominent Saudi woman activist to start this week: Family

Trial of Loujain al-Hathloul, one of nearly a dozen activists detained since last year, to begin on Wednesday says brother
Hathoul was previously detained for 73 days in 2014, after she attempted to drive into Saudi Arabia from the UAE (AFP)

The trial of Loujain al-Hathloul, one of nearly a dozen prominent Saudi Arabian women's rights activists detained since last year, will begin on Wednesday, her family has said on Twitter.

"My sister @LoujainHathloul will be having her first trial session next Wednesday at 8am at the specialized court in Riyadh. This is the court (that) deals with terrorism cases," her brother Walid wrote on Sunday.

He said Hathloul, 29, was not allowed to have a lawyer and had not been provided a list of indictments.

Amnesty International also said that Hathloul had no access to legal representation. 

"We fear she will be charged and tried on terrorism-related charges for peaceful human rights work," Amnesty tweeted.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Saudi Arabia to prosecute group believed to include detained women's rights activists
Read More »

It was unclear if the other detainees will also stand trial this week.

Saudi government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment, the AFP news agency reported.

Activists say some detainees, including Hathloul, were held in solitary confinement and subjected to mistreatment and torture, including electric shocks, flogging, and sexual assault. 

Saudi officials have denied those allegations as "false".

The Saudi government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the public prosecutor's office said earlier this month it had completed its investigations of the detainees and was preparing their trials.

The public prosecutor said last June that five men and four women had been arrested and held on suspicion of harming the country's interests and offering support to hostile elements abroad. Saudi media widely denounced them as traitors.

Previous detention

Hathoul, who has advocated an end to a ban on women driving and the kingdom's male guardianship system, was previously detained for 73 days in 2014, after she attempted to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates.

The driving ban was lifted in June, weeks after she was rearrested. The guardianship system, which requires women to obtain the consent of a male relative for major decisions, remains intact.

Google refuses to remove Saudi app that allows men to restrict women's movement
Read More »

Dozens of other activists, intellectuals and clerics have been arrested separately in the past two years in an apparent bid to stamp out opposition to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has consolidated power including with a sweeping "anti-corruption" campaign.

The women's arrests have intensified international criticism of Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul sparked global outrage.

The CIA concluded last autumn that the crown prince, also known as MBS, was behind the murder.

MBS has denied any knowledge of Khashoggi's murder or its botched cover-up, which Riyadh has described as a "rogue operation".

Three dozen countries, including all 28 EU members, called on Riyadh last week to release the activists, the first rebuke of the kingdom at the UN Human Rights Council since it was set up in 2006.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his British counterpart have also said they had raised the issue with the Saudi authorities during recent visits.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.