Family of Saudi Arabia’s ‘most outspoken’ political prisoner calls on G20 to hold kingdom to account


G20 leaders are assembly this weekend at a digital summit hosted by Riyadh, which at present heads the membership of wealthy nations. The occasion has revived dialogue in regards to the kingdom’s human rights abuses, on an uptick underneath the management of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has rolled out a fast succession of reforms whereas additionally forcefully stamping out dissent within the kingdom.  

“It’s the duty of the international community to ask about (Loujain). To tell Saudi Arabia that they won’t believe any of the reforms when the ones who have been advocating for them are behind bars,” Loujain al-Hathloul’s sister, Lina al-Hathloul, instructed CNN. “It’s the duty of the international community to call on the release of Loujain.”  

Amnesty International urged world leaders not to “buy the spin: Saudi Arabia’s real change makers are in jail.” Human Rights Watch mentioned the summit was “a mark of international prestige for the government of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman but it helps the Saudi government deflect from its image as a pervasive human rights violator.” 
Hathloul, 31, was jailed in May 2018 throughout an arrest sweep that focused outstanding opponents of the kingdom’s former legislation barring girls from driving. The crackdown occurred simply weeks earlier than the ban was lifted, casting doubt on the prince’s reform agenda.  

In an interview with CNN’s Nic Robertson on Friday, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Jubeir mentioned Hathloul’s case “was up to the courts. She’s on trial for matters related to national security.”

“The idea that she and her friends were detained because they advocated women’s driving is preposterous,” mentioned Jubeir. “(The plan to lift the ban on) women’s driving was decreed by His Majesty (King Salman) six months before they were detained. And if every woman in Saudi Arabia who advocates for women driving were to be put in jail, half the women in Saudi Arabia would be in jail.”

In a six-page charge sheet for Hathloul’s case, seen by CNN, a bit entitled “crimes committed” consists of activism in opposition to the kingdom’s restrictive male guardianship legal guidelines, together with contact with international journalists and diplomats.

The costs rely on a collection of alleged confessions, in accordance to the paperwork, which state that Hathloul confessed to making use of for a job on the UN together with confessing to being in touch with the human rights teams Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

‘Psychologically destroyed’ in jail

For a lot of her imprisonment, Hathloul has detailed her hardships — together with allegations of torture and sexual abuse — to her mother and father throughout their jail visits. Those allegations have been later made public by three of her siblings who reside exterior the kingdom, and have been corroborated by the court testimony of different feminine activists. 

Saudi authorities have repeatedly denied allegations of torture and sexual abuse of their prisons. 

For most of 2020, Hathloul has been denied common calls and visits along with her household, her siblings mentioned, including that officers cited the coronavirus pandemic as the explanation for suspending communications.  

When their mother and father noticed Hathloul in August, after having final spoken to her on the cellphone in April, they’d discovered her wanting “extremely skinny and extremely weak,” Lina associated. 

Still she appeared headstrong and alert. Loujain instructed her household that she had been granted the go to as a result of she had been on starvation strike and jail authorities had given in to her calls for. She had been protesting the suspension of communication after she realized that a minimum of one different prisoner nonetheless had common contact along with her household, in accordance to Lina. 

But after one other go to on September 9, Loujain was once more denied contact along with her household till a gathering along with her mother and father on October 26, when she knowledgeable them that she would resume a starvation strike, mentioned Lina.   

Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul has been in Saudi prison since May 2018, charged with women's rights activism and contacting journalists.

“Loujain was OK physically, but psychologically she was destroyed,” Lina mentioned. “My parents told us that they’ve never seen Loujain as weak and as hopeless as she was on that visit.   

“She instructed them that she is going to begin a starvation strike on that day … My mother and father tried the whole lot to cheer her up however Loujain was simply positive about what she needed … she does not need to survive on this jail anymore the place she’s not even allowed to have common calls.”  

A UN committee of independent experts earlier this month expressed alarm at reports of Hathloul’s deteriorating health condition and criticized Saudi Arabia’s apparent refusal to allow contact with her family. 

“The Committee is alarmed by the latest data in regards to the situations of Ms. Al-Hathloul’s extended detention, which have prompted her to begin a starvation strike,” read a statement by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. 

“Unlike different detainees, and opposite to Rules 26 and 42 of the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders … Ms. Al-Hathloul just isn’t allowed to have common contact along with her household nor to train actions, in accordance to reviews acquired,” it said. 

Hathloul’s family says they have not received news about her since October 26.  

Saudi authorities have not responded to CNN’s request for comment on the allegations made by Hathloul’s relatives.   

Lina al-Hathloul and her sister Loujain pictured in an undated photo on a train from Brussels.

Hathloul is believed to be the most vocal political detainee currently inside Saudi prisons, having made the plight of the kingdom’s imprisoned women’s rights defenders known to the outside world and sparking international outrage. Most of the activists detained in the wave of arrests which targeted Hathloul were freed in early 2019, after immense international pressure. 

The 31-year-old activist was one of a handful of female activists denied release. She was put in a solitary confinement in mid-April 2019 and remains there to date, her sister said. In January 2020, Hathloul was allowed to leave her solitary cell, but she could not adjust to the sounds of other people after having been deprived of interactions for nearly seven months, Lina said. She asked to stay in her cell, with an hour of social activities a day, according to her family.  

In August 2019, Saudi authorities provided to launch Hathloul on situation that she rescind her allegations of torture, her household mentioned. She declined the provide, in accordance to her siblings.

“She does not need to get out and have the individuals who tortured her and imprisoned her stroll with impunity and nonetheless have the opportunity to do that to different girls after her,” Loujain’s sister, Lina al-Hathloul, told CNN.  

“She’s essentially the most outspoken (Saudi detainee) behind bars. She will not settle for to be launched and not using a full and actual justice.”  

CNN’s Nic Robertson contributed to this report from Riyadh.

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