A Saudi court has sentenced prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul to nearly six years in prison.
State-linked news outlet Sabq said Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorism court found al-Hathloul guilty of agitating for change, pursuing a foreign agenda and using the internet to harm public order.
Al-Hathloul called for reforms such as ending male guardianship laws and allowing women the right to drive, which they now can do. Last year, the government eased guardianship laws and allowed women to get passports and travel.
Al-Hathloul has been in prison since 2018 after she was arrested, along with at least a dozen other Saudi women’s rights activists.
Al-Hathloul continued to advocate for human rights from jail. According to the Associated Press, she went on hunger strikes while imprisoned. The activist also alleged she was tortured and sexually assaulted during interrogations.
Her family said the activist turned down an offer of early release if she rescinded her allegation of torture, AP reported, adding that a Saudi court recently determined there was no evidence to support her claims.
The case has brought criticism from United Nations’ rights experts, human rights groups and lawmakers from the United States and European Union.
The U.N. human rights office was quick to tweet about al-Hathloul's sentence.
#SaudiArabia: Conviction and 5yrs 8 month sentence handed down to prominent women’s rights campaigner #LoujainAlHathloul, already arbitrarily detained for 2 ½ years, is also deeply troubling. We understand early release is possible, and strongly encourage it as matter of urgency.— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) December 28, 2020
In a statement, Lina al-Hathloul, Loujain’s sister, said, “She was charged, tried and convicted using counter-terrorism laws,” AP reported. “My sister is not a terrorist, she is an activist. To be sentenced for her activism for the very reforms that (Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman) and the Saudi kingdom so proudly tout is the ultimate hypocrisy,” she added.
Loujain al-Hathloul has 30 days to appeal the verdict.