Saudi women’s rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul released from prison

The prominent Saudi women’s right activist Loujain al-Hathloul has been released from prison, her family has disclosed.

Ms Hathloul, 31, was instrumental in the movement to allow women to drive in the kingdom. She was detained in 2018, just weeks before the ban was lifted.

In December a court found her guilty of seeking to change the political system and damage public order. She was sentenced to nearly six years in a maximum-security prison, but two years and 10 months were suspended.

Her family have warned that she is “not free” and will face numerous restrictions while on probation, including a five-year travel ban.

“Loujain is at home!” Ms Hathloul’s sister Linatweeted on Wednesday, breaking the news that she had been released after 1,001 days in prison. Another sister, Alia, wrote that “this is the best day of my life”.

Ms Hathloul became a symbol of the suppression of dissent in Saudi Arabia following her detention in May 2018 along with about a dozen other female activists who had also campaigned for women to be allowed to drive

Her family said she was initially held incommunicado for three months, and that she was subjected to electric shocks, whippings, and sexual harassment. They also alleged that that she was offered freedom if she agreed to say she was not tortured.

The Saudi government denied the allegations of torture, which her family said were recently dismissed by an appeals court.

Officials also insisted that she was not detained because of her activism, but rather her contacts with foreign diplomats, media and other organisations.

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivanwelcomed Ms Hathlouo’s release from prison, describing it as “a good thing.”

 

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