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Trial of Saudi Woman Activist to Open March 13

by AFP
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File Photo. Karim Jaafar—AFP

Rights group Amnesty International fears Loujain al-Hathloul ‘will be charged and tried on terrorism-related charges’

The trial of Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul, detained last year in a sweeping crackdown on campaigners, will start on March 13, her family and a rights group said on Monday.

Amnesty International, along with Hathloul’s family, fear the women’s rights activist will be charged with terrorism.

Hathloul’s brother Walid said his sister’s “first trial session” would open Wednesday in a Riyadh court that specializes in “terrorism cases.”

“She was not allowed to have a lawyer nor [was] she was provided with the list of indictments,” he said on Twitter.

Amnesty also said that Hathloul had no access to legal representation. “We fear she will be charged and tried on terrorism-related charges for peaceful human rights work,” Amnesty tweeted.

Saudi government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The kingdom’s public prosecution said earlier this month that women activists—some of whom allegedly faced torture and sexual harassment during interrogation—will face trial after being held for nearly a year without charge. The prosecutor, however, did not specify the charges nor give a date for their trial.

Hathloul was among more than a dozen activists arrested in May last year, just a month before the historic lifting of a decades-long ban on women drivers. Most were accused of undermining security and aiding enemies of the state. Some were later released.

Hathloul was one of the activists who faced sexual harassment and torture during interrogation, according to her family and rights groups. The Saudi government has rejected the allegation.

The crackdown has ramped up international criticism of Saudi Arabia, which has faced global outrage over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. Last week, 36 nations condemned Saudi Arabia over the murder, in a rare censure of the wealthy oil-rich kingdom at the U.N. Human Rights Council.

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