Saudi rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, released after 3 years
On Wednesday, Loujain al-Hathloul was released after three years in detention. Loujain is a key figure in Saudi Arabia’s women’s rights movement.
A prominent Saudi dissident, Loujain al-Hathloul along with a dozen other women activists, was arrested in May 2018. She is currently under probation. Despite her release, Saudi Arabia has not allowed her to leave the country and it has also imposed a 5 year travel ban on the activist.
The deputy director for the Middle East at Human Rights Watch, Adam Coogle said, “Loujain’s years-long imprisonment has ended, but she is not free. Banned from travel and coerced into silence by a suspended sentence hanging over her, Loujain’s ordeal remains a flagrant miscarriage of justice.”
Loujain al-Hathloul was the leading campaigner for the Women to Drive Movement in Saudi Arabia. The movement was started to fight against the Saudi law that prohibited women from driving. She drove from UAE to Saudi Arabia to show her support for the movement, but was stopped at the Saudi border. The 31 year old activist was later sent to prison for 73 days for defying the ban. This arrest shaped her activism for the years to come.
In March 2018, Loujain was forcibly flown to Riyadh after she was arrested in UAE. She was kept under house arrest before being moved to a prison in May. In May 2019, her trial began in Riyadh. Last year on 28th December, the activist was put behind the bars for five years and eight months. She was accused of pushing a foreign agenda and using the internet to harm public order.
Loujain’s families have accused the Saudi government of torturing her in detention. The activist joined other female activists and told the Saudi Judges that during the interrogation, she was tortured and sexually assaulted by masked men. Loujain along with other women activist were caned, electrocuted, waterboarded and sexually assaulted. They were forcibly groped and threatened with rape.
In May 2019, Loujain’s brother, Walid al-Hathloul, Loujain’s brother, told the Guardian that Saud al-Qahtani who was the former adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, visited Hathloul in detention and supervised her torture.