Sisters of freed Saudi activist Hathloul demand 'real' justice
The sisters of freed Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul have issued a call for "real justice" the day after her release from prison, demanding the removal of a travel ban imposed on her.
“What we want now is real justice. That Loujain is completely, unconditionally free,” Lina al-Hathloul, a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated campaigner, said during a news conference on Thursday.
Although released, Al-Hathloul will remain under strict restrictions, her family has previously said, including a five-year travel ban and three years of probation.
Speaking from her home in Belgium, Lina al-Hathloul said that Loujain, who is now 31 years old, will fight the conditions imposed on her by the Saudi authorities.
“She’s very strong,” said her other sister, Alia, who was also speaking from Brussels. “I’m so proud of her ability to keep high hopes, to be very positive and to say ‘OK, I went through horrible things - but life continues.’”
Al-Hathloul campaigned for an end to a ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, for which she was sentenced to almost six years in prison last December under a broad counterterrorism law. She was found guilty of "inciting change to the basic ruling regime" and "serving a foreign agenda".
Her release from prison early was widely expected as the judge suspended part of her sentence and took into account the time she had already served. The move comes as Saudi Arabia faces new scrutiny from the United States, where President Joe Biden has vowed to reassess the US-Saudi partnership and bring up human rights issues.
Al-Hathloul has long been outspoken about human rights in Saudi Arabia, even from behind bars. She launched hunger strikes to protest her imprisonment and joined other female activists in telling Saudi judges that she was tortured and sexually assaulted by masked men during interrogations. The women say they were caned, electrocuted and waterboarded. Some say they were forcibly groped and threatened with rape.
Al-Hathloul rejected an offer to rescind her allegations of torture in exchange for early release, according to her family. Last Tuesday, an appeals court day had rejected her claims of torture, her family added.