Jailed Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul to stand trial

A prominent jailed Saudi women’s rights activist who recently launched a hunger strike is set to stand trial in the kingdom on Wednesday.

The campaigner’s younger sister, Lina al-Hathloul, told The Independent the family have just been notified Loujain will be in court tomorrow.

Lina, who has been tirelessly campaigning for Loujain’s release from jail, 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.

“The authorities decisions have been very impulsive. The procedures have not been respected and have not been fair. The authorities previously blocked my parents from giving Loujain her legal documents.

“All we can hope for is that they release Loujain. I’m extremely nervous about tomorrow. But I’m also hopeful they release her. I really miss my sister. Not a second goes by that I don’t miss her.”

She said Loujain launched a hunger strike on 26 October in order to protest against the authorities’ refusal to give her regular contact with her relatives – adding that she was not sure if she was still on hunger strike due to having not heard from her.

At the end of last month, Lina, who has spoken to The Independent throughout her sister’s prison sentence, said she was “terrified” about her safety due to the hunger strike and her family being unable to get in touch with her. She urged the world not to “forget her” and help them “free her and save her”.

She added: “She has been in prison for almost two and a half years. Loujain shouldn’t be having to go on hunger strike to get basic rights. It feels like we are just waiting to mourn her. The world has a duty to save her and not forget her while she languishes in prison.”

Human rights organisations say Loujain, a University of British Columbia graduate, has been forced to endure abuse including electric shocks, flogging and sexual harassment while in jail.

She was arrested alongside 10 other women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 – weeks before the Kingdom reversed the driving ban.

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.

Adam Coogle, who works for the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, told The Independent: “Loujain al-Hathloul has committed no crime and is only in prison in retaliation for her human rights advocacy. Saudi authorities should immediately drop the charade that this is a legitimate legal process and release her.”

A recent report claimed jailed women’s rights activists and political prisoners have been sexually assaulted, tortured and died in Saudi Arabian prisons. Grant Liberty, a human rights charity which conducted the report shared exclusively with The Independent last week, alleges 309 political prisoners have suffered human rights abuses since Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince of the kingdom in 2017.

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