Five years and eight months in prison, this is the sentence that the Saudi court specializing in counterterrorism cases imposed on activist Loujain Al Hathloul. Detained since 2018, Loujain, 31, is a staunch defender of women’s rights in the kingdom and the court found her guilty of “serving an external agenda by using the internet to harm the public system, in addition to collaborating with people and entities that committed criminal acts in accordance with the terrorism law, “according to the local press.
The family condemned the decision and pointed out that “she is not a terrorist, she is an activist”, the same point expressed by the UN, which recalled that “defending human rights is not terrorism.” Kenneth Roth, executive director of the NGO Human Rights Watch, pointed out that the ruling is due to the Loujain “asking for their rights instead of waiting for the crown prince to grant them as a royal prerogative.” She and 10 other activists in the country were arrested days before Prince Mohamed Bin Salman enacted a law allowing women to drive, something they had been fighting for years.
In March 2019, 36 countries, including members of the EU, seconded in the UN Human Rights Council an unprecedented condemnation of the Saudi authoritarian drift and warned of the “use of the anti-terrorist law and other regulations against individuals who exercise peacefully their rights and freedoms.
The sentence includes a suspension of two years and ten months, which added to the time she has been in provisional arrest implies that she will be released in early 2021. Once out of prison, she will not be able to travel abroad for five years.