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Saudi Arabia: Loujain al-Hathloul's trial exposes hypocrisy on women’s empowerment

    November 25, 2020

    Responding to a Saudi Arabian judge’s decision to transfer human rights defender Loujain al-Hathloul's case to Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) following a trial session today, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Lynn Maalouf, said:

    “With Saudi Arabia’s human rights record back in the spotlight as its hosts the G20 this year, the Saudi authorities could have decided to end the two-year nightmare for brave human rights defender Loujain al-Hathloud. Instead, in a disturbing move, they transferred her case to the SCC; an institution used to silence dissent and notorious for issuing lengthy prison sentences following seriously flawed trials. This is yet another sign that Saudi Arabia’s claims of reform on human rights are a farce.

    “Loujain al-Hathloul must be immediately and unconditionally released, and all charges against her dropped. We also call on the Saudi authorities to ensure she is allowed to be treated by a doctor of her choice and granted proper access to her lawyer and family.”

    Background

    In 2018, Saudi Arabia arrested 13 women’s rights activists for exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Five remain in detention and appeared before a court today: Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani. It is unclear what the outcome of the sessions for the four other women human rights defenders.

    Loujain al-Hathloul undertook a two-week hunger strike from 26 October. According to family members who were present in the courtroom, she was shivering and speaking in a low voice during today's session as she read out her four-page defense. Diplomats from a number of states were denied entry at the courthouse under the pretext of COVID-19 regulations. Amnesty International has documented how trials before the SCC are intrinsically unfair.