Saudi women’s rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, has been sentenced to nearly six years in jail on Tuesday (December 29), her family informed, after being found guilty allegedly for trying to change the Saudi political system and harming the national security system under a law intended to combat terrorism.
The Saudi court, however, suspended two years and 10 months of her five years and eight month’s sentence, as she had already served that period since her arrest on May 15, 2018. She could be released by March 2021, but on condition she does not commit any other crime, Hathloul’s sister Lina said.
The verdict is being seen as one that could potentially challenge Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s relationship with US President-elect Joe Biden, who has criticised Riyadh’s human rights violations.
Hathloul (31) was also banned from travel for five years, which her sister said she will appeal.
“My sister is not a terrorist, she is an activist. To be sentenced for her activism for the very reforms that MBS and the Saudi kingdom so proudly tout is the ultimate hypocrisy,” Lina said in a statement.
Hathloul’s family and other activists have alleged that she was tortured with electric shocks, waterboarding, flogging and sexual assault. Saudi authorities have denied the charges. Hathloul had refused to withdraw her allegations of abuse, in 2019, in exchange of release, her family said. A court dismissed the allegations stating lack of evidence.
Hathloul is well-known for campaigning for womens’ right to drive and to end the Saudi kingdom’s male guardianship system.