“He seemed weak in judgment, his body was shaking uncontrollably and his voice was frail and shaky.” Loujain Alhathloul, the tireless Saudi activist for women’s rights, did not look like her during his court appearance this Wednesday. His sister Lina has announced the transfer of your case from an ordinary criminal court to one of terrorism. Several international organizations have denounced this gesture as an attempt to escalate the case in the face of international pressure for his release and the change of administration in the United States.
Alhathloul is one of the four activists for the rights of saudi women who appeared before the judge. Nassima al-Sadah, Samar Badawi and Nouf Abdelaziz starred in this rare court hearing alongside Loujain, who has become the visible face of Saudi human rights defenders imprisoned by the Mohammad bin Salman regime. “How credible is it that after more than a year of being tried in the criminal court, the judge now says that she has a lack of jurisdiction and transfers it to the terrorism court?” Lina asked Hazlul.
“Loujain still does not have proof of the accusation,” his sister recalled, “It has been almost three years since she has been in preventive detention and she should be released.” The 31-year-old activist was arrested in 2018 a few weeks before the lifting of the driving ban on Saudi women. Alhathloul, who had led the campaign against this deprivation, was arrested along with a dozen activists, many of them still in prison.
But the Saudi authorities deny that this was the cause of his arrest. “That idea is absurd,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir. “Loujain Alhathloul was arrested for reasons related to national security, dealing with foreign entities, supporting entities hostile to Saudi Arabia, “he told the BBC.
Although few charges against the activists have been made public, those of Alhathloul include communicating with foreign journalists, attempting to apply for a job at the United Nations, and attending a course on digital privacy, according to his family. During the more than two years he has been in prison, al Hazlul has been the victim of abuses such as electric shocks, spankings and sexual assaults. Together with their companions, they have been subjected to isolation regimes for months. The Saudi authorities deny the torture accusations.
Change with Biden
“Loujain said that she ended her hunger strike after two weeks of starting it on October 26, as the guards woke her every two hours, day and night, as a brutal tactic to break her,” the Amnesty International account tweeted. in the Gulf. “But nevertheless, she is far from broken“Many international organizations have used the G-20 summit held in Saudi Arabia to denounce the constant violations of human rights and the imprisonment of activists.
Faced with mounting international pressure, some NGOs hoped that in a gesture of goodwill, the Saudi authorities would release these women. But it was not like that. “Instead, in a disturbing move, they transferred his case to the Specialized Criminal Court; an institution used to silence dissent and known for issuing long prison sentences after trials with serious failures, “Amnesty said in a statement.
From her own activism, Lina Alhathloul has insisted on the need to keep this cause in the public eye. “When we were silent and the world knew nothing about her, she was being tortured in an unofficial prison“She recalled,” every time we don’t make noise, they put her in solitary confinement. “For now, the noise that Loujain began to make does not reach the offices of power.