A famous Saudi Arab campaigner who campaigned for women’s right to drive was sentenced to more than five years in prison on Monday.
31-year-old Loujain al-Hathul has been kept in maximum security prison for more than two and a half years.
He was arrested in 2018 along with other activists accused of keeping in touch with Saudi Arabia’s “organization hostility”. Since then, several human rights organizations have called for his release.
Despite this, the Saudi Specialized Criminal Court, set up to solve terrorism cases, condemned it for endangering national security and favoring a foreign agenda.
The sentence carries a jail sentence of five years and eight months. Sentenced to two years and ten months suspended.
Al-Hathloul and his family denied all charges and claimed that he was tortured in prison, although the court rejected those charges.
Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathlaul while playing video in Saudi Arabia – Photo: AP
The activist was arrested weeks ago, as Saudi women were allowed to drive in 2018, which led to her becoming the champion.
Saudi officials say his arrest has nothing to do with it.
Relatives of the activist said that three months after his arrest, he was placed in incomunicado and suffered electric shock, clashes and sexual harassment. He says he was offered his release in exchange for public statements that he said he was tortured.
Many human rights experts say the test does not meet international standards.
Last November, Amnesty International condemned the transfer of the case to the Special Criminal Court, stating that it exposed “Saudi brutality and hypocrisy”.
Prince bin Salman’s reform efforts were beset by allegations of human rights violations. – Photo: Reuters
The case raised further doubts on the reputation of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of the Arab oil monarchy.
Bin Salaman began a reform program, including ending the driving ban for women. Its purpose is to open the country to the world and attract foreign investment.
But their efforts are against the protests followed by the authorities and the role of Saudi authorities in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashogi.
For his courageous role as an activist in the campaign for Saudi women, Lazan al-Hathol was even more famous for his valor.
It is a symbol of human rights violations that repeatedly cast a long shadow over Saudi Arabia’s attempt to carry out economic and social reforms, while political dissidents are pressed with iron fists.
Joe Biden is expected to take a stronger stance on human rights violations when he takes office as President of the United States.
But Saudi authorities insisted that they would continue their own course. The monarchy believes that its role as the world’s largest exporter of oil and regional power will weigh more than anything in the international community.
Al-Hathlol’s sentence includes several years and the time spent in prison means that he and other activists may be released next year.
This may reduce the pressure on the Saudi monarchy, who, on the other hand, does not even want to succumb to the dictates of others.