Saudi woman activist loses court appeal against sentence

Loujain al-Hathloul, 31, was released on probation and is barred from leaving Saudi Arabia for five years

AFP March 10, 2021
Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul is pictured on her way to court in Riyadh in this file picture taken on March 2, 2021. PHOTO: AFP


Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul on Wednesday lost a court appeal against a prison sentence as well as restrictions including a five-year travel ban, her family said, following her provisional release from jail.

Hathloul, 31, best known for campaigning against a decades-long Saudi ban on female drivers, was detained in May 2018 with about a dozen other women activists -- just weeks before the ban was lifted.

In late December, a court handed Hathloul a prison term of five years and eight months for terrorism-related crimes, but a partially suspended sentence -- and time already served -- paved the way for her early release last month.

Hathloul was released on probation and is barred from leaving Saudi Arabia for five years.

"The judge denied the appeal and confirmed the sentence to five years and eight months in prison which includes three years of probation and five years of a travel ban during which Loujain cannot leave Saudi Arabia at any time," the activist's family said in a statement.

Saudi authorities have not officially commented on her detention, trial or release.

In one of her first public comments since her detention, Hathloul told foreign diplomats gathered outside the anti-terrorism court in Riyadh: "Let's hope that the sentence has been changed or modified a little bit."

Her siblings expressed disappointment over the decision to uphold the sentence.

"The confirmation of the sentence of my sister Loujain is yet another confirmation of the abuse of power of the Saudi authorities," said Lina al-Hathloul, the activist's sister.

Hathloul's siblings based overseas say her parents are also barred from leaving the kingdom even though they are not charged with any crime.

Hathloul's family has alleged the activist experienced torture and sexual harassment in detention, claims repeatedly dismissed by a Saudi court.

While some women activists detained along with Hathloul have been provisionally released, several others remain imprisoned on what campaigners describe as opaque charges.


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