Loujain al-Hathloul: Prominent jailed Saudi activist to be tried in terror court, claims sister

Maya Oppenheim
·3 min read
<p>The Nobel prize-nominated activist was arrested alongside 10 other women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 - weeks before Saudi Arabia reversed the driving ban</p> ( )

The Nobel prize-nominated activist was arrested alongside 10 other women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 - weeks before Saudi Arabia reversed the driving ban

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A prominent jailed Saudi women’s rights activist’s case is believed to have been transferred to Specialised Criminal Court.

Loujain al-Hathloul, who has allegedly been tortured in prison in the kingdom, successfully campaigned to win Saudi women the right to drive.

Lina al-Hathloul, her younger sister, said the Nobel prize-nominated activist’s case had been moved to the Specialised Criminal Court, which tries suspected terrorists and has been accused of muzzling human rights activists.

She said her sister, who has recently been on hunger strike, looked weak and her body was “shaking uncontrollably” in the court room.

“She looked weak in court, her body was shaking uncontrollably and her voice was faint and shaky,” her 25-year-old sister said.

Lina said the family have had “zero news" of Loujain since 26 October - adding the Saudi government refused them “access to Loujain” despite their repeated inquiries about her health.

She added: "Adel AlJubeir, the Saudi Minister of Foriegn of Affairs continues to spread lies about Loujain’s case - in a BBC interview four days ago he claimed that the evidence against Loujain has not been presented as in the Saudi system, ‘evidence is presented after the verdict is rendered.’ Till this day, no evidence has been given. Yet Loujain was accused by the Saudi government of being a traitor and Mohammed bin Salman himself called Loujain a spy.

“It’s incomprehensible that after such a long time that they just now realise that the court is not specialised. Loujain still doesn’t have any evidence of the accusation. It will be nearly now three years that she has remained in pre trial detention and should be released”.

Adam Coogle, who works for Human Rights Watch, told The Independent that the latest decision by Saudi courts was an attempt to “stigmatise” Loujain.

"Transferring her case to the same court that handles terrorism cases is yet another effort to stigmatise Loujain and her activities. No one should be fooled, the legal process is nothing more than a charade."

Loujain is awaiting trial on charges of communicating with foreign bodies hostile to Saudi, recruiting government employees to collect confidential information and delivering financial support to entities overseas who are hostile to the kingdom. Saudi officials have denied the torture allegations and said they were investigating claims of maltreatment.

Loujain’s family say they were given no time to get ready for her trial due to only being informed it was taking place a day before on Tuesday.

The jailed campaigner went on hunger strike on 26 October in order to protest against the authorities’ refusal to give her regular contact with her relatives.

Speaking to The Independent on Tuesday, her sister Lina said: “From the beginning, it has been a sham trial and a show trial so it won't magically become a fair trial. From the beginning, it has been normal to give a day's notice for things."

Loujain, a University of British Columbia graduate, was arrested alongside 10 other women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 - weeks before the kingdom reversed the driving ban. Human rights organisations say Loujain has been forced to endure abuse including electric shocks, flogging and sexual harassment while in jail.

Free Loujain, a campaign group made up of family members and supporters, claimed she recently had to stop her hunger strike after two weeks as she was left “psychologically exhausted” after authorities came into the jail and woke her up multiple times in the night.

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