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UN rights experts urge release of Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul after 500 days in jail Open in fullscreen

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UN rights experts urge release of Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul after 500 days in jail

Loujain al-Hathloul was detained last year [Facebook]

Date of publication: 28 September, 2019

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Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent activist for Saudi women's right to drive, was swept up in a crackdown on dissenters in May last year.
UN human rights experts on Friday urged Saudi Arabia to release jailed activist Loujain al-Hathloul, whose arrest 500 days ago marked the start of a crackdown against prominent women activists.

Hathloul, an activist for Saudi women's right to drive and other rights issues, was swept up in a crackdown on dissenters in May last year.

She is among ten other women activists detained and subject to an ongoing trial in the ultraconservative kingdom.

The arrests of Hathloul and other prominent campaigners for Saudi women's right to drive came just weeks before a longtime ban on the practice was officially lifted.

"It is shockingly hypocritical that Ms Al-Hathloul remains in prison for campaigning to change laws which have since been amended. Indeed, she should never have been imprisoned in the first place for exercising her fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” the UN experts said in a statement.

"In spite of recent improvements in Saudi Arabia's male guardianship laws, it is imperative that the world does not lose sight of the human rights concerns which persist in the country, as human rights defenders have continued to express.”

Read more: Saudi women activists should be honoured, not imprisoned

Human rights organisations including Amnesty International have alleged that Hathloul and other women campaigners have been subjected to torture and sexual harassment, including threats of rape, while in detention.

Hathloul also accused former royal court media advisor Saud al-Qahtani of threatening to rape and kill her, according to her family.

UN human rights experts have raised their concerns with the Saudi Government over the crackdown on women human rights defenders on a number of occasions.

Many were branded as traitors by local media and are standing trial over charges that include contact with foreign media, diplomats and human rights groups.

Their trial has cast a spotlight on the human rights record of the kingdom, which has also faced intense global criticism over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate last year.

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